How to Be a Patriotic Christian: Love of Country as Love of Neighbor

Amy Pagliarella reviews Richard J. Mouw's new book.

Richard J. Mouw
InterVarsity Press, 160 pages | Published July 19, 2022

When I see American Christians equate Christianity with loyalty to a single political party or to deeply flawed and law-breaking leaders, I will confess to feeling cynical: is it even meaningful to love God and country as an act of faith when Christian nationalism and right-wing extremism seem to dominate the news?

Theologian Richard J. Mouw responds to this question and speaks to our current climate with How to Be a Patriotic Christian: Love of Country as Love of Neighbor. Mouw, a political moderate and distinguished scholar, is well-equipped to wrestle with practical issues many pastors face (American flag in the sanctuary? Patriotic hymns at the holidays? Be willing to pray and speak in political and secular assemblies?)

Mouw’s reputation precedes him, so I did expect a deeper, richer conversation. This book feels like one of his slighter works. After completing it, I struggled to identify meaningful take-aways. Regardless, I realized that I enjoyed the practical examples as well as his willingness to engage all sides of an issue. Mouw cites conversations with colleagues ranging from Mennonite to evangelical, and I could learn from this openness. Mouw writes on “religion in public life” while focused on Christianity; although that is limiting, Mouw’s fervent reminder that we must stay in conversation (as well as in compassion, rootedness and contemplation) makes his recent book worth a read.

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