I have struggled with the answer to this question for a long time. I was taught not to pledge allegiance to the flag (especially in church--though that only ever happened at VBS at my grandma's church), not to put my hand on my heart during the pledge or the national anthem, not to worship the country or love it more than God. That was from my parents.
At the same time, we said the pledge every day at school. I know the "Star Spangled Banner" by heart. I loved wearing red, white and blue for the Fourth of July. I was taught about how great it was that we were "free."
I understood where my parents were coming from. God was certainly more important, and I understood not worshiping your country. But at the same time, I did love my country; I do love my country.
I'm not proud of us sometimes. A lot of times. There's a lot of things I'd like to change. But I love our diversity. I love that when we do work together, we really can move mountains. I love how rich of history we are. I love our national parks. I love traveling all over this country and seeing all the different landscapes and meeting different people and learning about different cultures.
Patriotism is not war to me. And I think that is part of why it has been hard for me to reconcile my patriotism with the popular patriotism, because I don't think loving my country means we are better than any other country or that we don't have a responsibility to people all over the world. We don't live in a bubble, but as long as we remember that, I think it's okay to still love your country.
I feel I'm in the minority in this in our country though. When Osama bin Laden was killed with a bullet to the head, people rejoiced. As long as our body count is less than those of other countries, we must be "winning" the war, whatever that really means. Without a face to the Iraqis or the Afghans or the Libyans or the countless others we have killed, we don't think about them. We don't consider how much of a blessing it is that we don't live in a country torn apart by war and that we just fight them in other countries.
War is not the answer. Peace is patriotic.
Jesus told us to love our enemies. Osama bin Laden is not one that is easy to love. He wouldn't have wanted my love--I live in a country he hated, I'm a woman, I'm a Christian, I'm about the opposite of a fundamentalist...
But Jesus didn't say, love your enemies if you want to.
Jesus often challenged us to do things that don't always sound good, or easy. But Jesus didn't come to make our lives easier. He challenges us to confront the empire, to not accept that things will always be this way, and be a part of the change. And Jesus was an advocate for nonviolence. War creates enemies, no matter who "wins" in the end. No one really wins, because wars don't resolve conflict. They just give us an excuse to kill each other.
It perhaps is obvious by the tone of this post that I am currently at the Baptist Peace Fellowship's summer conference ("Peace Camp"). It was an interesting Fourth of July. Lydia and I wondered how this particular group of people would act. But I think what really exemplified patriotism to me is exactly how we celebrated. We stood on the balcony and watched the fireworks. People from all different parts of the USA, and two people from Canada that might as well be my sisters, and we watched the fireworks. We embrace our differences and celebrate them, as we embark on this week, refreshing our sense of peace and justice, and most importantly remembering that love of each other is the most important thing.