Friday, February 22, 2008

True Patriotism

John Kline heard the distant thunder of cannon in 1849.

It could have been a premonition of the Civil War that would test his character and eventually take his life, but actually it was merely a celebration of George Washington's birthday. Kline had no objection to such public displays of patriotic feelings, but he was stimulated to think of a different sort of patriotism. So he wrote in his diary for Thursday, February 22, 1849:

I have a somewhat higher conception of true patriotism than can be represented by the firing of guns which give forth nothing but meaningful sound. I am glad, however, that these guns report harmless sound, and nothing more. If some public speakers would do the same, it might be a better place for both them and their hearers. My highest conception of patriotism is found in the man who loves the Lord his God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself. Out of these affections spring the subordinate love for one's country; love truly virtuous for one's companion and children, relatives and friends; and in its most comprehensive sense takes in the whole human family. Were this love universal, the word patriotism, in its specific sense, meaning such a love for one's country as makes its possessors ready and willing to take up arms in its defense, might be appropriately expunged from every national vocabulary.

Source: Preaching in a Tavern, by Kenneth I Morse