Confused About Patriotism
Confused About Patriotism
Written By Mark Elfstrand, Cultural Affairs Writer   |   07.03.24
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Would you agree with this statement: “Patriotism is a hot button issue in schools.”

My personal reaction is, “You’re kidding!!” Well, maybe in the late 1700s.

That phrase was a sub-heading in an article by the Associated Press about a year ago. The article was titled, “In a polarized US, how to define a patriot increasingly depends on who’s being asked.”

That’s where we are in political modernity. 

A few weeks ago, I quoted from the Oxford Dictionary the definition of a patriot:

“a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.”

As you gaze across the landscape of different worldviews today, would you think that all those Palestinian rights protestors who fly other nations‘ flags, and even burned American flags, qualify as American patriots?


Or how about the myriad of newcomers who crossed our borders illegally and fly the flags of their “home country” while receiving a warm welcome and benefits in the US? American patriots?

Forget I asked.

“New patriotism” ideas don’t mesh well with the old patriotism. You know, those 18th century patriots who battled it out for independence from Great Britain. An unjust government across the sea fueled their fight. That’s why we refer to our July 4th celebration as Independence Day.

Soldiers engaged in World Wars I and II knew their mission. The very survival of their homeland was at stake. Raising the American flag after tough human losses made a statement for the cause of freedom. And in a segment of our military today, many stand and fight for this same cause.

In the article I cited above, a reference was made to black military members who fought in World War 2 and advocated for civil rights when they returned home. In their minds, they considered themselves patriots. They hoped to advance the cause of freedom within our borders.

Of course we have also witnessed what can be described as extremist groups in our history. It’s reported the second Ku Klux Klan used American motifs and applied “the term ‘patriot’ since at least the early 20th century.” They even used the slogan “100% Americanism,” according to Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

Several antigovernment and militia groups in the last three decades have self-identified as participants in the “Patriot movement.” Terry Nichols, involved in the horrific Oklahoma City bombing in 1992, was among them. These aberrations cause genuine patriotism to lose its core meaning.

There was a time when virtually all public schools began their day with the Pledge of Allegiance. As of now, forty-seven US states require the pledge be recited in public schools.

However, a 1943 US Supreme Court ruling determined that no school or government can require someone to “recite the Pledge of Allegiance or salute the flag.”

How about just writing out the pledge? Perhaps in a history assignment? In Texas, a teacher paid a $90,000 settlement after being sued by a student for violating First Amendment rights when the teacher required a class to simply write out the Pledge of Allegiance.

A well known conservative voice has tried to stem the tide of lost patriotism in our schools. Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett developed a curriculum he titled, “The Story of America.” His press release in 2021 had Bennett saying that the curriculum was needed because “an anti-American ideology that radically misrepresents US history has infiltrated our education system and misled our kids.”

In a post-conservative America, that will not fly in most public schools.

Interestingly, the Bible is of little help in creating a policy on patriotism. Many Christians can find mountains of spiritual messages and quotes from famous government leaders that tell us that our nation cannot thrive in the absence of Godly values and leadership—which seems true! But there are no patriotism mandates.

The apostle Paul wrote to his protege Timothy,

“First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all, and tell God how thankful you are for each of them. Pray for kings and others in power, so we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (CEV)

Home schoolers and private schools have an advantage on this subject. They are able to use curricula like Bennett’s and others to teach children what true American patriotism looks like.

Personally, I have no fear of telling people I’m a patriot and what that means to me. Having served in the military, I have witnessed the deep-seated efforts of true patriots who will sacrifice and die for the love of our country, the values of our republic and our people. Even for those who don’t have a clue about true patriotism.

These warriors stand fast in spite of a confused America.

Have a blessed Independence Day.

Mark Elfstrand, Cultural Affairs Writer
Mark Elfstrand is a Christian husband, father and grandfather. A 40-year radio veteran, Mark has been a drive time air personality in Sacramento, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, including WMBI and WYLL. He has also served in various ministry leadership positions. His current endeavors can be found at
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