Note: I don’t endorse this painting in the slightest but I’m presenting it as an example of the extremely popular concept of mixing faith in Jesus Christ with American patriotism and nationalism.
When I was a young boy our family always went somewhere on vacation during the summer. My favorite trips included some kind of historical destination. I can remember visiting Fort Niagara, Fort Ticonderoga, and the Freedom Trail in the city of Boston. An interest was kindled and I became an enthusiastic student of the American Revolutionary War at a very early age ( beginning around ten). Most boys my age were busy collecting baseball cards while I was memorizing Revolutionary War generals.
The American Revolution is a fascinating story. Only about one third of the colonists supported independence. Another third of the population opposed it and the remainder were neutral. Following the war, many of those colonists who had actively opposed independence were literally driven from the country (most fled to Canada).
It’s obvious why many of the colonists sought to break from Britain. There were the opportunities for self-government and economic independence.
If the Apostle Paul had been living in 18th-century America, what would his advice had been to the Christian colonists contemplating revolution? We’re all familiar with the Paul’s admonitions to the early Christians regarding earthly rulers and governments:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-4
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” – Romans 13:1-7
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” – Titus 3:1-2
I don’t think that there’s any doubt that the Apostle Paul would have advised the colonists to submit to King George III and to be busy spreading the Gospel instead of revolution. Believers who supported the Revolution had to ignore the above verses or twist them like a pretzel so they could still justify their conduct. Some religious ministers of the period supported the Revolution while others urged their congregations to remain loyal to the British crown.
Below is an interesting article from Got Questions? on the topic which takes a middle-ground approach:
I’m admittedly an odd duck among American Christians when it comes to patriotism and nationalism. But I am grateful to the Lord for the freedoms we do enjoy in this country. Many Christians in this world are persecuted and even face death because of their faith. However, keep in mind that when we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior we became citizens of Heaven and we’re now to be ambassadors and emissaries of our Lord’s Kingdom. This world is fading away.