July 9, 2021 Brethren Letter

Dear Brethren,

“Americanism means the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and hardihood—the virtues that made America. The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Last Sunday, Americans celebrated the birth of our nation, the United States of America. Two hundred and forty-five years ago our country began by declaring its independence from Britain.

Recently, I was asked a question from a person wondering if it is proper for Church members to observe and celebrate Independence Day (July 4th), since it is not one of God’s Holy Days. Apparently, a minister from a Church of God group in the past had said that Independence Day should not be observed or celebrated by Church members, since it’s not a Holy Day. I am glad this person asked that question. Tonight, I will share the answer I gave. Following my answer, I have also included a letter (I sent before), from the Plain Truth “Personal” (1964), by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, on the subject of “PATRIOTISM.”

Please have a wonderful Sabbath everyone!

Sincerely, Your Brother in Christ,

Gary Liebold


My answer to this member’s question…

Hi ____________,

As far as a 4th of July celebration… it sounds like that minister interjected his own thoughts into the subject rather than what was taught by the Church. Yes, the 4th of July is not one of God’s Holy Days. Neither is Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or Thanksgiving. God’s Church has always taught that the meaning behind those days were right and perfectly acceptable in God’s sight.

Being grateful to God for the birth of this nation and the blessings this nation has received (4th of July), being thankful for your mother or father (Mother’s and Father’s day), and giving thanks to God for all of His blessings (Thanksgiving) [are acceptable to observe]. The only thing that would ever be wrong with observing any of these national days, is if a person somehow made and idol out them in some evil way. Of course, that’s true with ANYTHING we would put before God. These national holidays are entirely different than PAGAN holidays such as “X-mas,” “Easter,” etc. Those days should NOT be observed (as you know), with their pagan roots (they are abominations toward God).

Though this isn’t the only example I could send, here is one example of Mr. Armstrong observing the 4th of July as he wrote about in a Brethren letter in 1978.

Mr. Armstrong wrote….

May 21, 1978

Dear Co-Workers and Brethren in Christ,

On July 4 there will be a big “4th of July Celebration” in Jerusalem, hosted jointly by the Mayor of Jerusalem, Mr. Teddy Kollek, and myself. The city of Philadelphia had an exact duplicate made of the Liberty Bell — crack and all — and gave it to the city of Jerusalem. In the spring of 1976 — Passover time — the Mayor came to me privately, and asked my help in building an important downtown park in Jerusalem, to be named the “Liberty Bell Park.” Through the AICF, I was able to agree to supply the children’s playground area, at the very opening of the park. The park is now completed, and Mayor Kollek has asked me to be present on July 4 for the opening and dedication of the Liberty Bell Park.

Mr. Armstrong’s 1964 letter on the subject of “Patriotism”…

October, 1964

The Plain Truth

Personal from the Editor

WHAT ABOUT PATRIOTISM? Is it right, or wrong? A young, lady has just asked me that question. She had just recently returned from Ambassador College in England, where she had studied for the past two college years.

“I am an American,” she said. “I love this country. Is that wrong? Yet while I was in England I felt I ought not express any feeling of love for my own country. I was afraid it might stir up nationalistic prejudice. Of course, I love England, too, after having lived there for two years.”

This young lady wanted to know just how God considers patriotism. Some people seem to think that patriotism is a form of idolatry — and therefore a sin. She was a little confused.

“WHY should it be wrong to have a feeling of love for my own country?” she asked.

“It ISN’T!” I replied.

WRONG to love your own country? Of course not! Didn’t Jesus teach that we should love even our enemies? LOVE isn’t wrong!

But why, then, do some seem to think patriotism is idolatry?

The answer lies in asking another question: Just WHAT DO YOU MEAN — PATRIOTISM? Here was a young lady who had an attitude of LOVE for the United States of America. It is her native land. She OUGHT to love it! She said she also loved England. Her kind of patriotism is RIGHT — it is GOOD — it is completely in line with the basic LAW OF GOD!

But there is a different KIND of patriotism which, indeed, IS wrong in the sight of God.

Let me explain it so ALL can really UNDERSTAND! How do we KNOW what is right, and what is wrong? What is the Biblical definition of sin? It is found in I John 2:4: “Sin is the transgression of the LAW.” It is referring, of course, to the Law of God.

This is a spiritual law (Rom. 7:14). That law is fulfilled (performed) by LOVE. That law is summed up by the two Great Commandments — LOVE toward God, and LOVE toward humans: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor AS THYSELF.”

The Law does not allow us to love ourselves as much as GOD. It says one must love God with ALL his heart, soul, and might. To fail is SIN. Surely ALL have sinned! But the Law allows us to love our own selves AS MUCH AS human neighbor. And to love your neighbor AS MUCH AS YOURSELF is about as much as you are capable of loving your neighbor — isn’t it?

A year or more ago, in this column, I went to some length defining SELF. There is, first, your INDIVIDUAL self. That includes your own body and mind. You love YOURSELF just about as much as you are capable of loving. But then, there is also your EXTENDED self. This includes your clothes. Then it enlarges a little further, to include your own family, your home, your car, your possessions. You call them YOURS. They become a part of YOU. Then the extended self expands to include those in your club, your church, your group, your lodge, or even your political party. It expands, still further, to include YOUR COUNTRY.

Now self-love is natural. But to love your ENEMY is NOT natural. When Jesus said we should love even our enemies, the reporter, Matthew, who reported His statement (Matthew 5:43-48), wrote originally in the Greek language. And for the word translated “love” in our English language, Matthew wrote the Greek word “agape” — which actually means the DIVINE love which we do not have naturally — but which GOD may impart by the gift of His Holy Spirit.

We are not born with this “agape” — this divine love. We are born selfish. Watch a sweet, lovely little baby. It is altogether SELFISH. It loves ITSELF, and has a natural feeling of antagonism toward others. Jesus referred to this NATURAL love — with which we are born — the “love” of human nature. He said, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy” (Mat. 5:43).

But, you see, this natural human nature love looks on those outside its extended self as its enemy.

When we are thinking and speaking of NATIONAL considerations, human nature is patriotic toward one’s own country — because it then becomes part of his extended SELF. And so there is a feeling of antagonism against another country, when brought into comparison with his own. Actually, it is a form of HATE.

The world’s CIVILIZATION is actually FOUNDED on that kind of carnal attitude. It is the natural attitude of COMPETITION.

Take sports, for example. American colleges and universities, most of them, engage in intercollegiate athletics. College “A” has a football team. So college “A” and its team becomes part of the extended SELF of that college’s students. But the football team of college “B” is regarded as its ENEMY. The natural attitude is one of wanting to BEAT college B. It is a FORM (you may call it a mild form) of HATE. It is a feeling of definite antagonism toward the football team of college “B.”

A good example of the competitive spirit in this collective SELF may be seen right now, in the political campaigns. Under “works of the flesh” described as the OPPOSITE of the “fruit of this Spirit,” in Galatians 5, we find these (Moffatt translation): “Now the deeds of the flesh {SINS} are quite obvious, such as sexual vice, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, magic, quarrels, dissension, jealousy, temper, RIVALRY, FACTIONS, PARTY-SPIRIT, envy, murder, drinking bouts, revelry, and the like; I tell you beforehand as I have told you already, that people who indulge in such practices will never inherit the Realm {Kingdom} of God.” (Gal. 5:19-21.)

Among these SINS, imposing the CAPITAL PUNISHMENT of eternal death, are rivalry, factions, party-spirit.

What do we see in national politics?

The Democratic Party is full of PARTY-SPIRIT — and so is the Republican Party. An election is coming up in Britain, and we find that same PARTY-SPIRIT in both the Tories and the Labor Party.

What do we see in the American Presidential campaign? Do we see RIVALRY? DO we see FACTIONS? Do we see a spirit of discrimination against the opposite party, or candidates?

What do we see — or hear — today, in campaign speeches asking for the votes of the people? Do we see real lofty STATESMANSHIP of high caliber, based on wisdom and right judgment? Or do we see mud-slinging attempting to undermine the opponent’s reputation, reminiscent of the Keystone movie comedies, where they threw pies in one another’s faces? Do we see anything EXCEPT rivalry, factionism, party-spirit? Love for MY party, and hate for YOURS?

WHY do so many love to see a prizefight today? Two men square off in the ring. If one can so harm, pummel, beat, and injure his opponent that he knocks him senseless, HE IS THE WINNER — the HERO — HE gets the plaudits of the people!

The general idea in competition is not alone to GET, to WIN, to ACQUIRE, for the SELF. It is also to hurt, injure, harm, take FROM the other party — whether the other be an individual, a team, a political party, or a nation. It is the spirit of DISCRIMINATION!

Look at competition in business. I knew two retail clothing merchants. Their rival stores were directly across the street from one another. During business hours they would glare at one another with venomous hatred. Outside of business hours they would go to the synagogue arm in arm like loving brothers. The spirit of the synagogue, it seems, was love. But the spirit of business is competition — with its element of hate.

Years ago — before my conversion, I hasten to add — I heard of a bank in the northwestern part of Iowa, who had just built a new bank building. Across the street was a rival bank. They built one just twice as big — as much to make the rival look small, as to make them look big. I took the train to this town, showed the officers of the larger bank a full page advertisement I had designed for a bank journal. They looked at it, decided it would not profit them, and said “No.”

“Well that’s too bad,” I said, “because this is an EXCLUSIVE proposition. If YOU take it, the bank across the street can’t get it.”

They quickly changed the “No” to a “YES!” Reason? Not to help themselves — but to spite their competitor! I assure you I would never sell such an ad on that basis today.

This illustrates the principle of patriotism.

The patriotism which loves its own country, and hates, or feels a prejudice against, other countries, is a violation of God’s Law — and therefore it is WRONG — it is SIN!

But the young lady who asked me this question did not have THAT kind of “patriotism.” She also loved England. Her patriotism was not competitive. It was not founded on hate, but on LOVE.

Now IF, BY the term “Russia” we mean the Russian PEOPLE, I could truthfully say I love Russia! I love the Russian PEOPLE — but I do NOT love their Communist SYSTEM. I HATE communism!

Let’s get it straight. GOD loves this WORLD’S PEOPLE so much He GAVE His only begotten Son for them. Christ loved sinners so much that He DIED for them. But God HATES SIN! God’s hatred of SIN expresses His LOVE for the sinner — because SIN is the sinner’s enemy, seeking to destroy him!

The patriotism that LOVES your own country, but WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION AGAINST OTHER nations, IS A RIGHT PATRIOTISM.

Remember, God is NOT a RESPECTER OF PERSONS. GOD DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE. Let not the whites feel or express DISCRIMINATION against blacks — or the blacks against the whites. Let not Americans feel or express DISCRIMINATION AGAINST British, nor British against Americans.

Let’s divorce HATE from LOVE! That is God’s Law. That is the

WAY to peace and happiness. We may hate a wrong THING, but not our neighbor!

But can patriotism ever be idolatry?

Yes, it can and often is. Idolatry is having another god before the one true God. And what is your GOD? What ever you look to as your supreme authority — whatever you serve and obey as supreme — whatever you worship with devotion — is your GOD.

There is a Biblical explanation of turning patriotism into idolatry. In the Book of Revelation, the Roman Empire is symbolically pictured as a “Beast.” God pictures Empires here, and in Daniel’s prophecy, by the wild animals whose natures are those of these kingdoms. Speaking of the Roman Empire —

and, in the dual sense, of the resurrected Empire just now beginning to emerge out of the Common Market in Europe — we read: “And they worshipped the dragon {Satan} which gave power unto the Beast: and they worshipped the Beast, saying, Who is like unto the Beast? Who is able to make war with him?” (Rev. 13:4.)

Their patriotism became WORSHIP. They WORSHIPPED this Beast. How? By saying, “Who is like unto the Beast? Who is able to make war with him?” By extolling their country, competitively with other countries, as so great none other would dare stand up in war against it.

Have you ever heard anyone brag of YOUR country: “Why, we could lick any other country with one hand tied behind our backs!” That is WORSHIP! That becomes IDOLATRY! It extolls your country in a manner derogatory of others. It expresses hate toward others as well as love for yours.

It is NOT wrong to LOVE your own country — or even your own SELF! But God’s LAW says it is wrong to love your SELF MORE THAN your neighbor. It says you shall love your neighbor AS yourself.

It is NOT idolatry to be patriotic — to LOVE your country — as long as you DO NOT DISCRIMINATE against others.

The United States is MY native land. I LOVE this country!

But I love Jesus Christ as my Saviour MORE! I love Almighty God the Father MORE! And I love also the PEOPLE of other countries.

God Himself is PERFECT, and He commands us to be perfect, even as He is perfect. God is no respecter of persons! HE DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE! We must learn to be LIKE HIM!

Did you notice that dissension, jealousy, rivalry, factions, and party-spirit, are attitudes that are sure to keep you OUT of God’s Kingdom — if you harbor them? Are you SURE you have rooted out all this partisan feeling — this spirit of rivalry — of favoring one AT THE EXPENSE OF the other — from your mind?

If you haven’t, you’d better go to work on it — FAST! There isn’t much time left. And unless you do get all such attitudes rooted out of your active nature BEFORE the end, you’ll be doomed to the lake of fire! Better not take it lightly. The stakes are ETERNAL LIFE!

Log In