A Difference in Patriotism?
Marion D. Aldridge
Don’t confuse a difference in politics with a difference in patriotism.
The angriest I remember being at a church member in my twenty-five years of serving as a pastor was when a man came to the pastor’s study to complain about something he didn’t like. I had not even been aware of the oversight he brought to my attention. The church secretary had left any mention of the Memorial Day holiday out of the congregational calendar.
I apologized, which was easy, because a mistake had been made. Inadvertent. Unintentional, by either the secretary or me. Memorial Day was a church holiday. The church office had been closed. Furthermore, we had paid appropriate attention to the occasion in worship on Sunday.
But he was not satisfied. After listening to him express his dissatisfaction for a few minutes, I realized something deeper was going on. He and I disagreed on many political issues. I’m sure we often cancelled each other’s vote on Election Day. That was okay with me, because that’s the way America works. Maybe it wasn’t okay with him.
“Are you questioning my patriotism?” I asked. He was silent.
“Don’t you ever question my patriotism,” I said. Anger is not my customary emotion, but I was livid. “I love America. I do everything I can to be a good citizen and encourage others. I vote. I serve as a poll manager. I serve on juries when I’m called. I preach on Christian citizenship often. I fly the American flag on my front porch. Don’t you dare question my patriotism.”
Reaching over to my filing cabinet, I pulled out my folder on “Christian Citizenship” to demonstrate my point. “This is the thickest folder in my files. I will be glad to go through it with you piece by piece. You’ll find nothing here except evidence of my love for our country and my desire to live in it as a Christian ought to, and to make our nation better every year.” I was hot.
To his credit, he backed down, and acknowledged an honest mistake had occurred.
There are a lot of ways to be American. It is not your way or the highway. I don’t plan to go anywhere. We are Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian, black, brown, white and many other colors, male and female, Northerners, Southerners and Westerners, gay and straight, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Orthodox, Muslim, and Jew, Clemson fans and South Carolina fans, and there is room for all in this great nation. There is room for people who agree with me and for people who disagree.
“One nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” That’s not just a pledge. It’s my commitment and my prayer.