Being a patriot, loving the country or nation in which a person lives, serving and defending it a soldier or in some other form of public service – even being willing to die for it – is right. But a citizen that supports a particular government, saying, “My country, right or wrong,” is not really a patriot. Rather, that is “patriolatry,” which attributes to a government, a human-made institution, the moral status of God.
In Sacred Scripture, the Lord God declares, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3, ESV). Patriolatry is a form of idolatry, because a person’s loyalty to a nation takes the place of his or her loyalty to God. However, a person’s conscience can only give ultimate loyalty to an Ultimate Being and that, for most people, is God, not government.
Criticism of a country, then, is not necessarily equivalent to being non-patriotic; nor does it mean a person hates his or her country. Rather, a patriot, precisely because he or she loves his or her country, is willing to see its moral shortcomings and criticize them, not turning a “blind eye” to injustice, with the hope that the country will make moral and economic progress, resulting in a better nation, “with liberty and justice for all.”
America is not only a nation but also a “project.” The American project concerns good citizens, patriots, always seeking to find new ways to make America better than its past and in its future, better than it was and will be for coming generations.
Love America; but love God even more. Be a loyal American citizen; but be even more loyal to God. Not only recognize America’s problems and injustices, but also work for a solution to them. In doing that, a person is patriotic. Therefore, an American, in being realistically and optimistically patriotic, can truly say, “God bless America!”