• johned@aibi.ph


By Rowland Croucher

The following are the rough notes from which I preached about patriotism prior to Australia Day. Feel free to steal anything here for a National Day sermon/reflection...

Shalom! Rowland Croucher

Director, John Mark Ministries - resources for pastors/leaders. (Bookroom, library, and worldwide F.W.Boreham Trading Post) Home Page: http://www.pastornet.net.au/jmm (400 articles now)

Texts: God created [humans] in God's image... (Genesis 1:27)

Abraham, in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:3)

God gives to all life, and breath and everything: God made all 'of one blood'... We are God's offspring (Acts 17:22-28).

There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female: all are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28)

Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20)

There was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne... They cried out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God...' (Revelation 7:9,10).

The two classic biblical narratives about relating to the not- like-oneself: Jonah and the Good Samaritan...

Patriotism, nationalism, ethnicity, racism, multiculturalism - huge and complex subjects. Only time to open them up a little bit: lots of questions unanswered.

We live, whether we like it or not, in a multicultural world, a global village. I buy fruit from an Italian, my haircut from a Greek Cypriot, my clocks are fixed by an Austrian, I buy cafe latte from a Greek; my secretary's Lithuanian; my daughter-in-law is Chinese. Many of the key people in your life were not born here.

I want to say at the outset I'm proud to be an Australian. Last Monday Jan and I watched with deep emotion the live telecast of the arrival of our warship Adelaide in Fremantle with the two rescued yachtsmen. But I have a confession: I'm also proud to be a member of the human race that can organize world-wide sea- rescue protocols...

I've enjoyed watching the one-day cricket internationals. But I have another confession to make: I like it when Australia wins, but it doesn't bother me in the slightest when we don't.

I'm proud to be an Australian during most (summer) Olympics: we are usually one of the top five nations, per capita, to win medals, and in the Paralympics the top medal-winning nation pro rata. When I'm overseas the newspapers always seem to mention us on the sporting pages. We get onto the front pages with news like a Port Arthur massacre or euthanasia legislation.

I'm proud to belong to a nation that has produced people like Dame Joan Sutherland, Sir McFarlane Burnett, Don Bradman, Dawn Fraser, Kieran Perkins, Kathy Freeman; even Phar Lap.

Australia may be the least racist, most tolerant country in the Asian region. Ask any Malaysian Indian or Chinese about 'reverse discrimination' there. Japan's immigration policy is one of Asia's most xenophobic. Ask the Taiwan aboriginals about their lot (as I have on a number of visits there). We have problems issuing visas to Gerry Adams or David Irving (rightly, in my view), but we don't shoot dissidents here: we give them media space. More on us later...

A Journey Around the World.

I visited a South African 'Homeland' back in the eighties: thousands of people had been trucked to this place from a fertile area to make way for white farmers. I heard the Dutch Reformed Church had a healing service in their ministers' handbooks but it was rarely used, because 'white hands might have to be laid on black heads'. In Israel a West Bank Christian Arab family told us their home in the old city of Jerusalem had been expropriated by a Jewish family. Legal? Of course. All they had to do was advertise what they were doing in an obscure Yiddish journal which the Arab family never heard about. This family had a Jerusalem genealogy stretching back 2000 years.

In England I was a speaker at a conference for the pastors of the largest churches in the U.K. To these 400 elite clergy I wondered aloud why every plenary speaker before me had a negative joke or jibe against the Americans. In Cyprus I visited the dividing line between the Greek and Turkish sections in Nicosia: the young soldiers joked with each other across the concrete fence, swapping cigarettes, etc. A taxi-driver in Fiji told me he was a Moslem, and that there are three Islamic groups in Fiji. We passed a mosque: do you worship there? 'No, they'd kill me if I went in there!'

At two national aboriginal conferences in central Australia, and a conference with aboriginal people in Taiwan I led some Bible studies on social justice. The indigenous leaders asked me afterwards: "Why didn't the missionaries teach us about all this?" (Simple, I thought: those missionaries were the products of middle-class suburbs/churches like ours - the last people on earth to understand social justice).

Every night on the news we hear about some group or individual massacring another. Jewish settlers are fearful of Palestinians in Hebron. Tutsis massacre Hutus and vice-versa; Indonesians massacre the Timorese; several groups are picking on the Kurds (and there are Kurds picking on other Kurds): ditto with the Irish, the Afghans, Algerians...

* Last year a white church in Georgia in the U.S. wanted to exhume the body of a baby from its cemetery after learning that the child had a black father

* Boris Becker's wife is black: sometimes hotels won't give her a key to their room

* Australia has relatively few people trying to migrate illegally here: we are the largest nation to have no land borders with other countries (and guarded by fewer than 5000 trained combat troops). The Middle East, Asia and parts of Africa are dotted with sometimes vast refugee camps; people and their children rotting in anonymous despair and neglect, forgotten by the world.


I read this week of the engineer who in World War I at the risk of his life, dissected the first magnetic mine. He gradually, slowly took it to pieces, not knowing how the deadly thing was put together or when it might blow up in his face. At each step he'd call out what he was doing to his comrades (who were behind a brick wall) so that if he were blown up, they could carry on. What magnificent courage. What's behind that? Why would he risk his life like that? Short answer: patriotism. He loved his country and was prepared to offer his life to save its people from this new danger.

No dictionary in any language treats the word 'patriot' as a pejorative. Patriots love their country, are committed to its well-being, and give it loyal support. We humans need unconditional love, we need to be needed, and want to belong in a family/group: that's why God puts us into families where we did not choose our parents. We learn in families to get along with the people we live with. Home, said Robert Frost, is the place which when you go there they have to take you in. And we mostly did/do not choose our nationality: we have to learn to get along with our neighbors - that's all good for us.

Our identity derives from our experiences with significant others plus an identification with our land, our history, our cultural heritage. Talk to anyone returning 'home' after extended absence: the Scot delights in the heather and lochs of childhood days; the Irish the green fields; Australians - perhaps the smell of eucalyptus and the sounds of crashing waves. There's no place like home.

So patriotism is probably inevitable, possibly indispensable, but often very dangerous. National fervor helped push Germany to war twice this century (Hitler had a sinister little instinct for patriotic sentiment). Which is why Shaw said 'You'll never have a quiet world until you knock patriotism out of the human race'. It was Samuel Johnson who remarked that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel. (And Johnson was a high Tory!). And Tolstoy thundered: 'There has never been a combined act of violence by one set of people against another that has not been perpetrated in the name of patriotism.'. Us and them - spouse/family, family of origin, group, tribe, village, town, city, nation. Melbourne vs. Sydney; Australia vs. the Poms. Surrogate warfare - bodyline (cricket) series; Latin American soccer wars...

National Anthems

- express our aspirations to be great and to be free. A call to arms figures in the world's most stirring anthem, the Marseillaise (it's even written into the French constitution), as well as in the Italian and Hungarian anthems. The Marseillaise bristles with anger at la tyrannie, and urges the children of revolutionary France to 'drench our fields' with the 'tainted blood' of the enemy. The forces of political correctness are becoming uneasy at all this... The Dutch berate the Spanish for their tyranny; the Poles articulate some ill-feeling about the Swedish yoke and the Irish 'Soldier's Song' makes pointed reference to the 'Saxon foe'. Denmark's anthem graphically commemorates the exploits of King Christian: 'His sword was hammering so fast/ Through Gothic helm and brain it passed.' Then there's the Chinese national song - a paean to the prospect of 'using our flesh and blood to build a Great Wall. Guatemalans are admonished never to permit 'tyrants to spit in thy face...' Maryland's state hymn, dating from the Civil War, entreats the locals to 'Avenge the patriotic gore/ That flecked the streets of Baltimore.' Yuck.

The Star Spangled Banner is played before every major U.S. sporting event (and many not so major). In the hooha following Denver Nuggets' guard Mahmood Abdul-Rauf's refusal to stand for the national anthem, pro golfer Mike Sullivan said 'I don't think they should suspend him. I think they should shoot him.' In Kenya Ee Mungu nguvu yetu (O God of All Creation) is played not just before every sporting event but also before every public gathering.

Over in ENGLAND the times are a'changing. 'The Empire Strikes Back!' they say when there's racial trouble in the cities. Churchill had declared that he was not going 'to become the king's first minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire'. But he did: he had no choice. And England has been in something of an identity crisis ever since.

English patriotism has a remarkable history, and literature. George Orwell referred to the 1930s as a period when 'the English built up their legend of themselves as 'sturdy islanders' with 'stubborn hearts of oak': 'it was accepted as a kind of scientific fact that one Englishman was the equal of three foreigners.' 'I don't hold with abroad', declared Quentin Crisp, 'and I think that foreigners speak English when our backs are turned.' _

Rupert Brooks's 'The Soldier', whose dust was to lie in 'some corner of a foreign field' rejoices in his Englishness:

A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,

Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,

A body of England's breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home

Problem is when Englishness is contemptuous of other nations. As in W.S.Gilbert's lines in H.M.S. Pinafore:

For he might have been a Roosian,

A French, or Turk, or Proosian

Or perhaps Ital-ian!

But in spite of all temptations

To belong to other nations,

He remains an Englishman!

Reminds me of a Frenchman, wishing to be complimentary, who said to Lord Palmerston, 'If I were not a Frenchman, I should wish to be an Englishman.' 'If I were not an Englishman,' retorted the patriotic Palmerston, 'I should wish to be an Englishman.'

Current debate about eurocurrency; previously Thatcher's Falklands affair, when the 'Argies' became the English tabloids' equivalent of the 'Huns' of WW2. It is more bearable to think of several hundred 'Argies' perishing with the Belgrano than several hundred mothers' sons - or people like us from Argentina who play tennis or rugby. Now I'm something of an Anglophile. This year my wife Jan and I will be overseas for some speaking engagements. We ask, if we get a round-the-world ticket where will we have a holiday? Our first choice is always the U.K.

Across the Atlantic, Americans use Independence Day (the 4th of July) to remember that its national greatness is rooted in certain idealistic ways of looking at human beings and their destiny. But it's all embarrassing sometimes. A leading American professor of religion and culture, John Killinger, writes: 'On a Sunday nearest a recent Memorial Day, my wife and I attended a well-known church in southern California. The church is noted for its pizzazz, but we hardly were prepared for everything that happened.

For starters, a Native American, dressed in a buckskin jacket, sang 'God Bless America', and the minister interviewed a recently returned Beirut hostage. Then a military squad paraded up and down the aisles, boots clicking smartly on the floor and rifles rotated and shouldered in striking precision.

Two high school bands came playing down the aisles, meeting before the chancel as majorettes twirled and spun their batons. As a finale, a dozen ushers marched across the chancel, carrying something that resembled an enormous carpet. When they had attached their burden to a series of wires, a ninety-foot American flag rose behind the choir, while bands played, the majorettes twirled, the rifle guard stood at attention, and we all sang 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic'. It was quite a show for the two dollars I dropped in the offering plate. (John Killinger, 'Holydays and Holidays' in 'Mastering Worship', Multnomah/Christianity Today, 1990, pp. 132-3).

I've been in the U.S. twice on July 4. The first time our family was camped among the California Redwoods, and the ranger allowed the Americans to let off fireworks as they drank beer and sang songs. The other time I attended a United Methodist Church, also in California. I still have the Bulletin and Order of Service. Opening hymn: 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee'; Special Music: a duet version of The Battle Hymn of the Republic; Concluding hymn: 'O Beautiful for Spacious Skies'. Sermon title: 'Called to freedom'. (I remember being struck by the anomaly of a Southern Baptist preacher in another church I visited inveighing against the idolatry of candles in the sanctuary, but a couple of U.S. flags were prominently displayed near the pulpit).

And Back in Australia...

I've never heard of an Australian church singing only patriotic songs in a worship service. How about next Australia Day we sing Waltzing Matilda, God Save the Queen and Australians all let us rejoice, and for the concluding song, C'mon Aussie come on!' or 'I'll still call Australia home...' Australians have never quite come to terms with defining our national uniqueness. Australia Day? Who cares? What do we commemorate then anyway? The national anthem? Who knows all the words?

As a student in a NSW State school during WW2, I can still remember at school assemblies watching the flag raised as we all said 'I honour my God, I serve my king, I salute my flag.' Victorian schools had a different version: 'I love God and my country; I honour the flag; I serve the Queen; and cheerfully obey my parents, teachers and the law'.

It's not long ago that Sir Robert Menzies insisted on appointing Englishmen (usually aristocrats) as governors-general. It's only ten years since an ultimate appellate court for Australia was the British Privy Council. Country Women's Associations still have a picture of the Queen at their meetings, and probably still sing GSTQ. Young Australians express their patriotism at sporting events, especially international one-day cricket matches. When inflamed by alcohol their behavior is sometimes overtly offensive and racist - an assertive, degenerative patriotism...

Our Australian ambivalence about all this goes back to Gallipoli, our first major feat of arms. Why should we celebrate that? (At Gallipoli officers had to stop their troops becoming too friendly with the enemy during a cease fire called to remove bodies after a particularly horrible engagement.) But then the Charge of the Light Brigade and Alamo were great defeats too.

In a (1988) book entitled 'Waiting for the Revolution' Noel McLachlan begins and ends by posing three questions: What does being an Australian mean? Is it something of which to be proud or ashamed? Has the nation a future? He notes that Australians value egalitarianism and mateship; they're apathetic-to-intolerant of authority. His unsurprising conclusion: there is much in Australia's past to be proud of, and much to be ashamed of, but he says either response is irrational. (Now where does that leave us?).

Our past is a mixture of brutality, oppression and wasted opportunities. The solutions to our racial and multicultural problems do not lie in breast-beating guilt or impersonal social welfare or even legislation for 'positive/reverse discrimination'. But there ought to be some kind of cathartic national contrition over our treatment of the Aboriginal peoples (see the article on the JMM home page about the Tasmanian Aboriginals). I don't think we'll arrive at a true nationhood until we solve these old problems. The skeletons keep rattling to haunt us. I once wrote to 40 Christian aboriginal leaders and asked them 'What would you want to say to Australia?' They had differing views on land rights, but all of them said in one form or another: we want to be respected; talk to us; listen to us; let us be friends.

When I lived in Canada for a couple of years in the 1980s, I learned that Canada (as Marshall McLuhan once put it) was the only country on the earth without a national identity. They knew who they weren't (Americans) but not who they were. Australia has suffered a similar ambivalence about its identity. We knew/know we aren't Poms, but who are we?

My Country Right Or Wrong?

'Stalinism means never having to say you're sorry.' But wait: during his re-election campaign, President George Bush said 'I will never apologize for the United States of America: I don't care what the facts are.' He was responding to the shooting down of an Iranian jet. Recently I wrote some Scripture Union notes on Jeremiah. Now there's a patriot if ever there was one: and *because* he was patriotic he publicly opposed national policy. He was imprisoned more than once, and accused of treason and disloyalty. Yet in the light of history, he was proven to be right. Jeremiah would say, 'to equate patriotism with support of the status quo - my country right or wrong - is the worst thing you could do if something important needs to be changed.' Thomas Mann and Alexander Solzhenitsyn were considered disloyal for questioning the politics of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Would they have been more patriotic if they'd shut up?

Sometimes, if you love your family, or group or church, you have to speak up when you feel they're wrong. Children accept things: but when you grow up, says Paul, you've got to think more maturely. Jesus had to resist his mother, and his friends, when they suggested something not aligned with his destiny. (My most difficult decision: entering the Baptist ministry against the wishes of my Brethren parents). We are loyal if the State operates according to godly principles, but if it doesn't we are to obey God rather than our leaders. Paul in Colossians says Christ resisted 'principalities and powers' (but in Titus (3:1) we are to be subject to them).

'With all her faults we love her still/ Britannia rules the waves.' That's got to happen in any family or group. I don't understand 'lovers of humankind' who hate their own country. Far from echoing the words of Stephen Decatur, 'Our country right or wrong', they will even refuse to say, 'My country when it is right'. On the other hand, there's an old lie - 'Dulce et decorum est/ Pro patria mort' - how sweet and beautiful it is to die for one's country...

So Why is Patriotism Sometimes Bad, Occasionally Awful?

Maybe a deep emotion which includes anger. Morris West's new book, A View from the Ridge: 'Archbishop Mannix handed me the prize as dux of my school in 1929. In 1951 I petitioned his court for a decree of nullity on my marriage. The petition was refused. I could not, would not, accept what I believed was a loaded verdict. That verdict changed my life completely. It forced me to examine the roots and meanings of the unexamined beliefs I had held and taught for so long... It made me, for a long time, a wanderer on the face of the earth.' (p.60). 'Emotional intelligence' may be more important in arriving at deeply-held convictions that reason/logic. (Most people are outside the church not because they disagree with Jesus or even perhaps Christian dogma, but because they don't feel accepted and loved in the church). On the JMM home page is a summary of a book 'Why Leading Philosophers Believe in God' Why? Rationality played a part in most of their theological journeys, but for most it was a life-changing experience that led to faith in God...


H.L.Mencken warned that whenever you hear someone speaking of love for their country that's a sign they expect to be paid for it. Morris Janowitz in 'The Reconstruction of Patriotism: Education for Civic Consciousness', is critical of modern citizens who are quicker these days to talk about their rights and more reluctant to talk about their obligations. For example, he wonders why we are quick to talk about our right to a jury trial but are mostly reluctant to serve on a jury. And maybe World War II - Pulitzer Prize Winner Studs Terkel has called it 'The Good War' - was probably the last good war. It would be almost impossible to generate the levels of patriotic dedication that were so much a part of our life 50 years ago. An American President, Calvin Coolidge, said it best: Patriotism is easy to understand in America; it means looking out for yourself while looking out for your country.

The Real Problem:

one of the seven deadly sins - pride - which leads to notions of superiority: pride of race/place. And when nationalistic pride is tainted by ethnic fear; when patriotism's scruffy half- brothers xenophobia and chauvinism are added to the mix and that becomes chronic war is only a matter of time.

Strangely, with the awareness we live in a 'global village', there has been a concomitant growth in nationalisms. It may be possible to be a true patriot without the deadly sin of pride, but it is very hard.

The reason Ms Hanson has enjoyed such notoriety is that the genies of our various insecurities have been let out of bottles - genies of anger (what's our tax money done to change anything?) fear (the SE Asians are going to take over our jobs), repressed collective guilt, shame (our brutal past), helplessness, cognitive dissonance (grateful to our war dead, but denying them glory in war games). If we are insecure we'll develop lots of conspiracy theories to explain why (my) life is unfair: in a world of exaggerated anxieties we cultivate suspicions of those whose pigmentation, behavior or creed is inimical to ours: someone else has to be the cause of my problems...


Begin with Paul's statements about creation and recreation: Acts 17 one blood and all human creatures made in the image of God; Gal 3:28: in Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek... Babel: another story about human pride: penalty: rather than togetherness, separateness. Abraham: all nations of the earth blessed: so in the honor roll of people God blessed are people like Rahab, Naomi, Cornelius, the Greek Bereans.

Australia is more the Good Samaritan than most other nations, but we still 'walk by on the other side of the sea'... *Hospitality* is a time-honored, biblical virtue (doing unto others: what would you want if you were a displaced refugee?) vs. territoriality. (Re immigration: I don't know any reasonable person who'll deny we need to be selective and careful about the mix and number of migrants. I don't want to open up our country to terrorists...)

Nations, As Well As Individuals Can Repent.

For example 1 Kings 8:44-53 assures the people of Israel that if they are carried away into captivity and they repent, they will be restored. In Matthew 11, Jesus spoke about cities that were going to receive the judgment of God because they would not repent. 'Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord' (Psalm 33:12).

Tennyson's century-old prescription is a good one:

Ring out false pride in place and blood,

The civic slander and the spite;

Ring in the love of truth and right,

Ring in the common love of good.

Ring in the valiant man and free,

The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

Ring out the darkness of the land;

Ring in the Christ that is to be.

We are citizens of the world, as well as of Australia. HG Wells' principle: = 'our true nationality is mankind'. Right. Many centuries ago the prophet Micah asked 'What does the Lord want you to do?' Answer: 'Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.' No one has ever improved on that.


I'd like to include if I knew where and had more time...

* Jesus was born into a despised race - he was an Asian, a Jew, a refugee...

* Patriotism equated with killing or being killed...

* Lesser breeds without the law

* Power/empowerment/ethology: land/place...

* Great Southland: 'this is our land': is it?

* Where is home?

* Nationalism is, relatively, a historical novelty, replacing the lost ties of family, clan and tribe.

* FEAR of change and growth (I don't mind if things change, so long as I'm not asked to change).

* People are different: Canadians kill seal pups, Koreans kill puppies, we kill lambs and calves, Norwegians and Japanese kill whales. So?

* And some people are better at some things than others. Why aren't there Aboriginal entrepreneurs? (Cf. Indian merchants in South Pacific countries; Chinese in S.E.Asia etc.) Why do so many intellectuals have Jewish names? (A friend goes to a Jewish psychiatrist who told him there were 15 other psychiatrists in his synagogue!). Why will several people in the top ten students in the VCE have Jewish and Chinese or Vietnamese names? Why are five of the six top-performing schools in Victoria Jewish?

* Jesus (coin) and Romans 13: job of the state to do politics.

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