Daily Reading for November 11 • The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

I have urged the need to chip away at national sovereignty and expand global loyalty. But I believe that global loyalty will be reached through patriotism, not by rejecting it. Christians simply cannot allow political leaders to hijack patriotism in the service of fervent jingoism. As I see it, there are three kinds of patriots, two bad, one good. The bad patriots are the uncritical lovers and the loveless critics of their country. The good patriots are those who carry on a lover’s quarrel with their country, a reflection of God’s eternal lover’s quarrel with the entire world.

Nationalism at the expense of another nation is as evil as racism at the expense of another race. Nevertheless, just as husbands can love their wives without denigrating other women, so patriots ought to be able to love their country without disparaging others. I love America, and it is precisely because I love my country and want to promote her best interests that I want her citizens to recognize their interdependence with all nations, their need for common rather than national security, the worldwide need for disarmament, environmental protection, and greater economic justice.

Genuine love expands, it doesn’t contract. True patriotism can only extend minds and hearts, extend them to the point where all citizens in every land will one day vote for a vision of human unity once so eloquently described by a candidate for no less a post than that of the U.S. presidency: “We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable supplies of air and soil; all committed for our safety to its security and peace, preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and I will say, the love we give our fragile craft” (Adlai Stevenson).

To eyes that are open, this vision is still accessible, not yet beyond hand’s reach.

From “A Vision of the Future” in A Passion for the Possible: A Message to U.S. Churches by William Sloane Coffin (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004).

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