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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy


Pride is the chief sin. It is the sin against the First Commandment, and as every sin is against the First Commandment, every sin is pride. Every sin says to God, "I know what you want, how you say I should live, but I know better; I have a better law." So every sin is making oneself one's own god - pride.

Of course we Christians know pride is bad so we try to avoid out and out pride as much as possible. Which usually means we try to find clever ways to indulge our desire for pride. The parent obsessed with his child's sports, music, or other talent is an example of transferred pride. Or the pastor who dotes on a cherished aspect of his parish.

But the chief example of transferred pride must surely be patriotism. "I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free" is as nonsensical as the rich young man's question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" What does "doing" have to do with "inheriting"? What can pride have to do with the historical accident of being born to certain parents or in a certain locale? Thankful to live in a fabulously wealthy, relatively free nation? Absolutely! But proud to be such? Just a non sequitur.

The fact that the patriotism of the average American Christian is naught but transferred pride is seen in the denials or omissions of what counts as America. We are proud to be Americans where at least we know we are free, a light shining on a hill, home to freedom of religion: all that counts as American. Abortion on demand, homosexual marriage, women in combat, undeclared warfare, the highest incarceration rate in the Western world, rampant fornication, menorahs on the White House lawn: all that doesn't count as American. That is an aberration. That is not really America, not really us.

Just as my sins of anger, lust, greed, etc. are not really me. I am the good person who does the right thing and always tries my best. I'm|We're #1!

I suppose the temptation is the same for Russians, and Germans, and Chinese as well. I just happen to be an American living in the patriotic Midwest, so this is the sort of transferred pride I am most used to. On the left and right coasts I understand that they have an odd corollary: being proud of not being proud of being American, being proud of being a citizen of the world, being proud of the list of things that the Midwest does not count as American.

The otherworldliness of the Christian faith is best seen in St. Paul praying for Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus and encouraging Christians to peaceful obedience to such a wretched man and perverted society for the sake of what blessings God seeks to give through worldly order. In the world, but not of the world: the whole world! Our citizenship is in heaven - eagerly awaiting a Savior from there. That's quite a statement from Paulus civis Romanus ex nativitate! Citizenship in an earthly realm is a tool to be used, not a true status: our citizenship is in heaven. And in that passage from Philippians 3 we should also remember that Savior is also a political word - the first Augustus' title.

Jesus Christ is King, Savior, Lord - Rex, Salvator, Dominus. There is no other. Earth (including America) is a desert drear: heaven is my home.


Pr. H. R.8 Comments