July 5th, 2013
05:40 PM ET
Mourn on the Fourth of July: Inside the Christian anti-patriot movement
By David R. Wheeler, special to CNN
(CNN) - Like many congregations, The Mennonite Worker Community of Minneapolis held a worship service and picnic this Fourth of July - but instead of extolling the virtues of America, they called attention to its faults.
The annual service is “a sort of anti-patriotic holiday,” says Mark Van Steenwyk, whose community focuses on simplicity, prayer and peacemaking. Singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” is out. Reflecting on the contradictions between the gospel and the American Dream are in.
“We thank you, O God, for the good things we enjoy in our lives," reads a prayer the Mennonite community recites each year, "but lament that our abundance has brought destitution to sisters and brothers throughout the Earth.”
Anti-patriots like Van Steenwyk say their movement, which has grown more vocal in recent years, is simply an honest way to read – and live out – Jesus' teachings on nonviolence. But it's hard to look at groups like The Mennonite Community and not see an implicit criticism of God-and-country cheerleading by mainstream Christians and ripples of centuries-old church-state tensions.
Some anti-patriots come from pacifist Anabaptist traditions, such as the Mennonite Church. Others come from evangelical backgrounds but have rejected their counterparts' often unreserved patriotism and embraced liberal-leaning communities like Red Letter Christians and JesusRadicals.com.
They may differ on theological details, but they hold at least one belief in common: You cannot serve both God and country.
A Suspicion of the State
Anabaptists such as Mennonites and the Amish were persecuted by state churches in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, and their descendants bear a lasting suspicion of human authorities.
Many an Amish and Mennonite home keeps a copy of "The Martyr's Mirror," a book thick with testimonies of Anabaptists burned at the stake of orthodoxy. The book's subtitle refers to the martys as "defenseless Christians," a nod to Anabaptists' belief that when Jesus called on Christians to turn the other cheek, he was quite serious.
For that reason, Anabaptists historically do not participate in warfare — or celebrate military victories.
American Anabaptists have been fined or jailed for their pacifist beliefs during wartime. Four Hutterites died from harsh treatment while imprisoned as conscientious objectors during World War I, Bach says. Anabaptists didn’t receive official permission to perform alternative service until World War II.
READ MORE: Bolivia’s isolated Mennonite community
“Some members of Anabaptist groups today are more acculturated and celebrate patriotic holidays just like the rest of the nation,” says Jeff Bach, director of Elizabethtown College's Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. “None of the Anabaptist groups are anti-American. They are typically grateful for the religious freedom permitted in the United States.”
Still, in 2011, Goshen College, a Mennonite school in Indiana, banned the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting events because, according to the college’s president, the lyrics were too violent.
Serving `the King'
It may be difficult for some Americans to understand why their countrymen would disassociate themselves from patriotism. What’s the harm in celebrating Independence Day, anyway?
But nonpatriotic Christians believe the burden of proof should fall on the other side: Why should peace-loving believers celebrate a bloody revolution? And American history after 1776 isn’t exactly pacifistic either, Van Steenwyk says.
“It is easy to judge Islam for the actions of a relative few militants. Yet when millions of Americans — a vast majority of them claiming the Christian faith — were complicit with slavery, indigenous genocide, and continued economic exploitation, we suddenly see them as separate from our faith,” says Van Steenwyk.
Jesus called his followers to Christian service and humility, which are the opposite of nationalistic rituals performed on the Fourth of July, says David Swartz, author of “Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.”
“A heightened devotion to the nation can cause a lot of confusion abroad when people see claims of a Christian America alongside a long American history of slavery, economic inequality and overheated Hollywood sexuality and violence,” says Swartz.
Kurt Willems, who runs the progressive Christian blog Pangea, has also joined the rising nonpatriotic chorus. The Anabaptist from Seattle writes an annual post explaining why he no longer celebrates Independence Day.
“Each year I receive comments about how I should leave this country if I ‘hate’ it so much,” he says. “I love Americans, but I’m not willing to compromise my values as a servant of my only King, the nonviolent revolutionary — Jesus.”
Making Toby Keith Proud
Many Christians trace the latest wave of evangelical interest in pacifism to author and activist Shane Claiborne, who worked with Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta, ministered to Iraqis during the war in Iraq and now leads a Philadelphia community called The Simple Way.
“My philosophy on patriotic things would be: A love for the people of our country is not a bad thing, but why should love stop at the border?” says Claiborne.
There have been some nonpatriotic gatherings in major cities, such as the Los Angeles Catholic Worker’s “Mourn on the Fourth of July” peace march in 2008.
Still the nonpatriot movement remains small, and finding local communities can be challenging, Van Steenwyk says.
“Everyone knows that other folks think like them, but it isn’t like there are a lot of congregations that self-identify as being nonpatriotic.”
That’s especially true for evangelicals, who lead the country in patriotic fervor.
More than 80% of white evangelicals believe that God has granted the United States a "special role" in history, according to a survey released June 27 by the Public Religion Research Institute.
In a stat that would make Toby Keith proud, more than two-thirds of white evangelicals say they are "very proud" to be an American, outstripping every other religious group polled.
So it's not surprising that some conservative Christians find the nonpatriotic alliance of progressive evangelicals and Anabaptists troubling — even dangerous.
“All Christians everywhere are called to love and serve their nations,” says Mark Tooley, a president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy and a United Methodist.
READ MORE: Celebrating the Fourth of July
“The stance of some evangelical elites influenced by neo-Anabaptist beliefs is often one of ingratitude, and whining, while ignoring the teaching of the universal Church, which has always recognized the God-ordained vocation of the state, and the Christian’s calling to serve as responsible citizens,” he says.
Tooley also disagrees with the nonpatriotic Christians on about military force, which he says is required to maintain order worldwide. Nonpatriot Christians are naïve not to consider the ill effects should the United States abdicate military power, he says
“What would the alternatives be if the USA didn’t exist or withdrew from the world stage? Almost certainly a more dangerous, more anarchic, more repressive, less prosperous world with less opportunity for the poor to escape poverty,” Tooley argues.
No Middle Ground?
Some patriotic pastors argue for a middle way: honoring America without succumbing to chauvinism or ignoring the country's wrongs.
“Do I agree with every major policy of our government? No way,” says Kyle Vanover, pastor of Cyrus Chapel United Methodist Church in Catlettsburg, Kentucky. “But I’m proud to be an American, and I believe God has truly blessed this land.”
Van Steenwyk, however, says there is no middle ground.
Jesus’ identification with the poor, love of enemies, and refusal to take power are incompatible with the “entire political and economic system” of the United States, he says.
“Let’s face it — the Sermon on the Mount makes for lousy foreign or public policy. We can’t have it both ways.”
David R. Wheeler is a journalism professor and freelance writer living in Lexington, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter at: @David_R_Wheeler
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
This article is about LIBERAL Christians, yet you would never tell from the headline. Furthermore, imagine the outrage if Fox News wrote an article about unpatriotic Muslims without discerning between radical and moderate Muslims.
Once again, CNN has exposed the double standards of the left.
This isn't about liberal Christians at all. Do you suffer from reading comprehension problems?? And in no way does this article represent all Christians, as it went through great lengths to make clear. I get it. You have a problem with liberals. Insert your sentiment here: "Liberals are _____________________." There, feel better?
Liberal, Ha. tell that to an amishman while he is riding along in his horse and buggy. They still refer to Americans as "English"
In case you can't figure it out, religion is the problem, including the new enviro/religos and socio/religos
July 4th Independence day isn't about patriotism anyway, it's about celebrating an armed revolt that overthrew the previous government which is about as anti-patriotic as you can get.
The Bible refers to it as idolatry.
So this would be "American Idol-atry"?
Magic Underwear for the win.
Mennonite Workers forget:
Our War on Terror and Aggression:
An update (or how we are spending or how we have spent the USA taxpayers’ money to eliminate global terror and aggression)
The terror and aggression via a Partial and Recent and Not So Recent Body Count
As the koranic/mosque driven acts of terror and horror continue:
The Muslim Conquest of India – 11th to 18th century
■"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "
and the 19 million killed in the Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C by Muslims.
and more recently
1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured
1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh
2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured
3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US troops killed in action, 3,480 and 928 in non combat roles. 102,522 – 112,049 Iraqi civilians killed as of 9/16/2011/, mostly due to suicide bombers, land mines and bombs of various types, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf
4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.
5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.
6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.
7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.
8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.
9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.
10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,385 killed in action, 273 killed in non-combat situations as of 09/15/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror
11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.
12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.
13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,
14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.
15 The daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings in the terror world of Islam.
16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.
17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.
18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.
19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country's controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011
20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011
21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.
22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) - Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.
23) "October 4, 2011, 100 die as a truck loaded with drums of fuel exploded Tuesday at the gate of compound housing several government ministries on a busy Mogadishu street. It was the deadliest single bombing carried out by the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group in Somalia since their insurgency began. "
o 24) Mon Jun 4, 2012 10:18am EDT
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A suicide bomber detonated an explosive-packed car outside a Shi'ite Muslim office in central Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 26 people and wounding more than 190 in an attack bearing the hallmarks of Iraq's al Qaeda affiliate.
The bombing on a Shi'ite religious office comes at a sensitive time, with the country's fractious Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs locked in a crisis that threatens to unravel their power-sharing deal and spill into sectarian tensions."
25) BURGAS, Bulgaria | Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:27am EDT
(Reuters) – A suicide bomber carried out an attack that killed seven people in a bus transporting Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, the interior minister said on Thursday, and Israel said Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants were to blame.
26 ) September 12, 2012
U.S. AMBASSADOR KILLED
Envoy to Libya dies in rocket blast
27) Boston Marathon horror – April 2013, four dead, hundreds injured and maimed for life. A
Other elements of our War on Terror and Aggression:
-Operation Iraqi Freedom- The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US Troops killed in action, 3,480 and 928 in non combat roles as of 09/15/2011/, 102,522 – 112,049 Iraqi civilians killed as of 9/16/2011/, mostly due to suicide bombers, land mines and bombs of various types, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf
– Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan: US troops 1,385 killed in action, 273 killed in non-combat situations as of 09/15/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed mostly due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror,
– Sa-dd-am, his sons and major he-nchmen have been deleted. Sa-dd-am's bravado about WMD was one of his major mistakes. Kuwait was saved.
– Iran is being been contained. (beside containing the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Baghdad, that is the main reason we are in Iraq. And yes, essential oil continues to flow from the region.)
– North Korea is still u-ncivil but is contained.
– Northern Ireland is finally at peace.
– The Jews and Palestinians are being separated by walls. Hopefully the walls will follow the 1948 UN accords. Unfortunately the Annapolis Peace Conference was not successful. And unfortunately the recent events in Gaza has put this situation back to “squ-are one”. And this significant stupidity is driven by the mythical foundations of both religions!!!
– – Fa-na–tical Islam has basically been contained to the Middle East but a wall between India and Pakistan would be a plus for world peace. Ditto for a wall between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
– Timothy McVeigh was exe-cuted. Terry Nichols escaped the death penalty twice because of deadlocked juries. He was sentenced to 161 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole, and is incarcerated in ADX Florence, a super maximum security prison near Florence, Colorado. He shares a cellblock that is commonly referred to as "Bombers Row" with Ramzi Yousef and Ted Kaczynski
– Eric Ru-dolph is spending three life terms in pri-son with no par-ole.
– Jim Jones, David Koresh, Kaczynski, the "nuns" from Rwanda, and the KKK were all dealt with and either eliminated themselves or are being punished.
– Islamic Sudan, Dar-fur and So-malia are still terror hot spots.
– The terror and tor-ture of Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo and Kuwait were ended by the proper application of the military forces of the USA and her freedom-loving friends. Ra-dovan Karadzic was finally captured on 7/23/08 and is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the law of war – charges related to the 1992-1995 civil war that followed Bosnia-Herzegovina's secession from Yugoslavia.
The capture of Ratko Mladić: (Serbian Cyrillic: Ратко Младић, pronounced [râtkɔ mlǎːditɕ], born 12 March 1943) is an accused war criminal and a former Bosnian Serb military leader. On May 31, 2011, Mladić was extradited to The Hague, where he was processed at the detention center that holds suspects for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). His trial began on 3 June 2011.
– the bloody terror brought about by the Ja-panese, Na-zis and Co-mmunists was with great difficulty eliminated by the good guys.
– Bin Laden was executed for crimes against humanity on May 1, 2011
– Ditto for Anwar al-Awlaki on September 30, 2011
– Ditto for Abu Yahya al-Libi on June 5, 2012
Oh come on, tell us how you really feel.
one proven fact,, thanks to researchers using zip codes from credit card purchases; sunday morning has the lowest po-rn sales. They go up again after services.
Imagine that ! No wonder I don't want to attend church ! May the force be with you "I'm a Realist"!
Proven fact? Riiiggght! Your sources are?
And you do realize (or perhaps you don't) that "Sunday Morning" happens at different times all over the world?
did you miss,, "by zip code"..
Religion requires ignorance to perpetuate
hmmm, more Christians sure that other Christians are wrong. This always is interesting since it makes the claim that there are so very many Christians e.g. "America is a Christian nation" or "Christianity is the majority" a lie since there is no agreement on what a TrueChristian really is.
expect that since christianity was a concoction to begin with, all manipulations.
"America is a Christian nation" is a lie simply because it is not true and never has been true. Not because of what some definition of christianity is or is not.
oh my, "lionlylamb" this is quite a word salad
"The USA was found “in part” due to Christendom’s fashioning around those lessor known for their advocacies of Christian traits and conditionings of spiritual anomalies feathered conjugations which became federally maintained manifestations of lawfulness ideologies."
Mark Tooley, former CIA, hardly speaks for United Methodists.
"The truth is until a soldier shows the love of Jesus for himself and everyone single one of his country men when he get's home he is not a patriot"
BS. I am a patriot, and there is no such thing as the love of Jesus, as far as I can see. You are lying, and you are lying about me. What does the bible say about bearing false witness?...One of the top 10 no-no's isn't it.
Recognizing our country has problems and faults is being "unpatriotic". David Wheeler, you are just another useful idiot.
I agree with Ed Dugan..This world should be the survival of the fittest...Turn the other cheek ? what garbage. Love your neighbour..? more garbage... My ' neighbours ' mean nothing . This world is all about ME BABY !
you sound like a christian with that statement.
First – Patriotism is BS. You believe that your country, whichever one it is, is the greatest country in the world, for no other reason than that's the one you happened to be born in.
Second – Love your neighbor and all that other stuff, is not a product of religion but pre-dates religion. It is the bonding together in communities and looking out for each other that allowed the human species to evolve and take over the planet. We-re just one of 5 million species on the planet today, we're the dominant species not because of strength or speed but because of the evolution of our brains and our communities, which includes the evolution of moral codes of behavior that enabled us to be more than survival of the fittest. In communities we became more efficient in food production, defense of each other, protection of children, passing on of knowledge and wisdom, etc. You are able to read and write, not because you possess it in your genetic material, but because others do not believe in survival of the fittest, but in survival of the community. SInce you are able to read, please do so.
The truth is until a soldier shows the love of Jesus for himself and everyone single one of his country men when he get's home he is not a patriot, Until a wealthy person gives at least half of all he has to the poor (this includes people on welfare) and/or the government to go towards to national debt he/she is not a patriot. True love of country is not celebration of a Holiday, it is not denial of faults and villinizes those that acknowledge them. True patriotism is hospitality for government, care for the poor and needy, i.e. unemployed/underemployed, widows, fatherless, and strangers (yes these principles still apply and America is poor in comparison to The kingdom of Israel, Egypt, Rome, Babylon, Assyria, etc...)
You're referring to Canada, right? Care for the poor and needy?
Say what you want about these people's lack of patriotism, I find it quite refreshing reading about Christians who are actually committed to Christ's teachings. If you actually read the New Testament, you can't honestly disagree with these people. (obviously ignoring whether or not the New Testament is actually the word of God, etc.)
Alex, YES. I agree with some things here, and disagree with others. But yes.
The problem is many of Jesus teachings are absurd. They sound great but are totally unrealistic.
"Love your enemy". No one does that and they would be crazy if they did. Are we supposed to love terrorists who are trying to destroy us ? How am I supposed to love my neighbor if I don't even know him ? I do think people should try to follow the golden rule, that just makes sense for one's own self interest.
Christians may claim they love everyone but I dont buy it. I think many of them say they do to try to claim the high moral ground and to feel holier than thou.
christians are just a confused group, as muslim. That's what happens when you can't accept reality, you become liars and manipulators. And when you are challenged you either have to make up more stuff or become angry as little kids.
These guys are right on, glad to see there are still people capable of analytic thought in this country.....too many of us just wave the flag in ignorant bliss.
And far too many wave the bible in willfully ignorant bliss.
I read this article and did NOT see people being anti-patriotic. What I saw was that there are groups of people devoted to a responsible, peaceful way of life, that recognize that there are things our country could be doing better. That's not only NOT anti-patriotic, I think it's actually MORE patriotic than mindlessly cheering because something bright and shiny exploded overhead.
no problem,, secular society will keep a check on the US.. Just as we did with taming christians here. Thank goodness we did that or it'd be like the middle easy here, except with christians.
Countries with Christianity as the major religion are generally more free than non-Christian countries. You should read about the USSR's secular and anti-religion movement.
so you claim to be a little bit better.. Thank secular society for that.. We tamed you all.
@imachristian, that doesn't fit with the fact that Russia's parliament has just overwhelmingly approved a new blasphemy law allowing jail sentences for offending religion.
What exactly does "secular society" mean to you? Do you acknowledge contributions to society, like technology and medical treatments, that came from Muslims, Jews, Buddhists or Christians?
Religion, a filthy perverted disease of the mind
yep,, and they allowed the catholic church to escape crimes against children. Only in religion.
Pathetic article. "anti-patriotic" and "anti-patriot" have two completely different connotations. The author seems to have come up with the latter term, and just keeps repeating it to try to make it stick.