Christians can be good dual citizens:
Believers are citizens of two different worlds: our own, and the heavenly. The Christian of course loves and longs for this eternal home. But how do we relate to our current home? Is there a place for love of home and even love of country? Yes to both, but only in light of our eternal home.
That is, we can love home and country too much. We can even love our own family too much, as Jesus made clear. We can make an idol out of our family and our country. Thus we are to love God supremely, then all other loves will fall in their rightful place.
Much has been said about this over the centuries of course. Here I want to draw upon two of my favourite Christian authors: C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton. Both wrote about these matters with great insight and clarity. But first let me bring in a third author and offer a brief quote of his. Chuck Colson said this – in part – about Christian patriotism:
Christians who are faithful to Scripture should be patriots in the best sense of that word. As Augustine put it, Christians are commanded to love the whole world, yet practically speaking we cannot do so. Since we are placed as if by “divine lot” in a particular nation state, it is God’s calling that we “pay special regard” to those around us in that state. We love the world by loving the specific community in which we live.
Consider then what C. S. Lewis said about these matters. In the second chapter of his brilliant 1960 book The Four Loves he spends ten pages discussing the love of one’s country. He begins by distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy patriotism. He then offers four ingredients of the love of country, the first of which I will share here:
First, there is love of home, of the place we grew up in or the places, perhaps many, which have been our homes; and of all places fairly near these and fairly like them; love of old acquaintances, of familiar sights, sounds and smells. Note that at its largest this is, for us, a love of England, Wales, Scotland, or Ulster. Only foreigners and politicians talk about “Britain”. Kipling’s “I do not love my empire’s foes” strikes a ludicrously false note. My empire! With this love for the place there goes a love for the way of life; for beer and tea and open fires, trains with compartments in them and an unarmed police force and all the rest of it; for the local dialect and (a shade less) for our native language. As Chesterton says, a man’s reasons for not wanting his country to be ruled by foreigners are very like his reasons for not wanting his house to be burned down; because he “could not even begin” to enumerate all the things he would miss.
It would be hard to find any legitimate point of view from which this feeling could be condemned. As the family offers us the first step beyond self-love, so this offers us the first step beyond family selfishness. Of course it is not pure charity; it involves love of our neighbours in the local, not of our Neighbour, in the Dominical, sense. But those who do not love the fellow-villagers or fellow-townsmen whom they have seen are not likely to have got very far towards loving “Man” whom they have not. All natural affections, including this, can become rivals to spiritual love: but they can also be preparatory imitations of it, training (so to speak) of the spiritual muscles which Grace may later put to a higher service; as women nurse dolls in childhood and later nurse children. There may come an occasion for renouncing this love; pluck out your right eye. But you need to have an eye first: a creature which had none–which had only got so far as a “photo-sensitive” spot–would be very ill employed in meditation on that severe text.
Of course patriotism of this kind is not in the least aggressive. It asks only to be let alone. It becomes militant only to protect what it loves. In any mind which has a pennyworth of imagination it produces a good attitude towards foreigners. How can I love my home without coming to realise that other men, no less rightly, love theirs? Once you have realised that the Frenchmen like café complet just as we like bacon and eggs–why, good luck to them and let them have it. The last thing we want is to make everywhere else just like our own home. It would not be home unless it were different.
I encourage you to pull your copy from your shelves and read the rest of what he has to say on this. But then there is the great G. K. Chesterton – already mentioned by Lewis. The passage I present here nicely ties together the idea of love of one’s homeland with love of our true homeland. It comes from his 1908 classic, Orthodoxy. The second and third paragraphs of his Introduction are quite famous, but are worth quoting from again:
I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas. I always find, however, that I am either too busy or too lazy to write this fine work, so I may as well give it away for the purposes of philosophical illustration. There will probably be a general impression that the man who landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton, felt rather a fool. I am not here concerned to deny that he looked a fool. But if you imagine that he felt a fool, or at any rate that the sense of folly was his sole or his dominant emotion, then you have not studied with sufficient delicacy the rich romantic nature of the hero of this tale. His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again? What could be better than to have all the fun of discovering South Africa without the disgusting necessity of landing there? What could be more glorious than to brace one’s self up to discover New South Wales and then realize, with a gush of happy tears, that it was really old South Wales. This at least seems to me the main problem for philosophers, and is in a manner the main problem of this book. How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? How can this queer cosmic town, with its many-legged citizens, with its monstrous and ancient lamps, how can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honour of being our own town?
To show that a faith or a philosophy is true from every standpoint would be too big an undertaking even for a much bigger book than this; it is necessary to follow one path of argument; and this is the path that I here propose to follow. I wish to set forth my faith as particularly answering this double spiritual need, the need for that mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar which Christendom has rightly named romance. For the very word “romance” has in it the mystery and ancient meaning of Rome. Any one setting out to dispute anything ought always to begin by saying what he does not dispute. Beyond stating what he proposes to prove he should always state what he does not propose to prove. The thing I do not propose to prove, the thing I propose to take as common ground between myself and any average reader, is this desirability of an active and imaginative life, picturesque and full of a poetical curiosity, a life such as western man at any rate always seems to have desired. If a man says that extinction is better than existence or blank existence better than variety and adventure, then he is not one of the ordinary people to whom I am talking. If a man prefers nothing I can give him nothing. But nearly all people I have ever met in this western society in which I live would agree to the general proposition that we need this life of practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure. We need so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome. We need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable. It is this achievement of my creed that I shall chiefly pursue in these pages.
When I first read these paragraphs back in early 1977, that memorable image – of setting sail to find some exotic new land, only to come upon your own – immediately hooked me. I thanked my friend for letting me have a look, and I went out and bought a copy.
As I have said before, I have since gone through several copies of this great volume: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/24/notable-christians-g-k-chesterton/
But Chesterton so very nicely brought together this theme that Augustine, Colson, Lewis and others spoke to: having a proper love of our own home and country, while not loving any less our final and eternal home. Indeed, our current home really only makes sense in light of the home to come.