I confess that most of the time I am a somewhat quiet patriot. I know folks whose chests swell with patriotic pride quickly and often -- flag-wavers and boosters if you will. It would seem that deep and fiery feelings of admiration for America come less often to me than it does to these more robust patriots. But they do come.
I love America's history and have acquainted myself with some of her shining moments while at Arlington Cemetary and a host of other sites in and around Washington, D.C. I have read pretty extensively about the Civil War period and decently about the founders and the Revolution. In other words, I have prepared the soil of my heart for whatever patriotic feelings that may honestly arise.
The last time I was struck by patriotic lightening was not long ago. It happened to me as I enjoyed watching the new John Adams miniseries (starring Paul Giamati) on DVD.
One segment in this production depicts the Continental Congress in session as they passionately debate the question of whether or not they should declare independence from England. Once the debate comes to a close, a final vote is called for. As the tally is taken, the results become clear. At that moment, a breathless silence falls across the room. In a single stroke, these men have summarily pledged themselves, their families, and their entire futures and fortunes to the notion of standing up to the greatest superpower in the Western world and daring it to subdue them as they reach for their golden ring of liberty.
What astounds me about this it that these men are clearly not being driven to this decision by greed for personal gain, institutional arrogance or inflated ideas of their own self importance. What has brought them to their moment of truth are their convictions, their principles and even their theology. God, they assert, gives rights to men that no king or crown may tamper with or remove. Their call, therefore, is to make their stand come what may.
In the pregnant silence that follows their vote, the room is thick with the silent reverberations of: "What have we just done?" It is a stunning scene indeed. Sitting safely in my chair, I am captured by the courage and character of my national forefathers and I am moved with awe that I am in any way a part of the country they birthed in their hearts that long ago day.
Armchair patriot? Perhaps. But I will continue to make my heart available to those shivers of inspiration that remind me of the greatness that still rises to the surface of our national story in times like these. And I pray that God will refine us as a people who will courageously live out our endowment as Americans again and again until His Kingdom breaks into this present age in ultimate consumation.