A Love-impelled Patriotism

The sentiments and impulses which give character to a national holiday are not to be undervalued, even though upon special occasions they may reach a distressingly high tide of exuberance and enthusiasm. It would be conceded by all, save the big and little boys, that the fire-cracker, as it figures on the Fourth of July, is a symbol of nerve-trying and wellnigh unendurable racket. It stands, however, for other and better things; namely, the individual recognition of communal life and interests, and the joy experienced at thought of the welfare of the many.

Self-centeredness would identify man with the animal and so become his bane, and though the material sense which gives rise to this false individualism is escaped from only as we awake to spiritual life, conditions are vastly improved through the attainment of that self-forgetfulness to which patriotism conduces,—a self-forgetfulness which often makes both the high and humble heroic. Like many other things, this sentiment may degenerate under the influence of a narrow concept of personal interest. A fine high thought, which naturally expresses gratitude, unselfishness, and altruism, may thus become a mere physical exhilaration which is blaring, thoughtless, and morally debasing; and here, therefore, as everywhere, there is need of the redemptive Christ-idea.

Letters to our Leader
July 1, 1905

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