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Niebuhr's always-timely insight is that patriotism is commendable in taking us beyond a fixation on self-interest, but dangerous in that it easily becomes little more than a collective egotism that is problematic precisely because it is so often considered virtuous.

Ethics
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Touchstone)


Bonhoeffer bore witness to a patriotism of engaged resistance. Rather than exile himself from Nazi Germany or comply with the regime, he instead returned from New York in 1939 with a clear intention to resist his own government—in the name of both Christ and a better, truer German identity.

A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Edited by James M. Washington (HarperOne)


In his "I Have a Dream" speech and other writings, Martin Luther King Jr. taught generations of readers an exalted form of patriotic dissent, in which current policies are challenged by both biblical norms and our nation's highest principles.

Religion, Empire and Torture: The Case of Achaemenian Persia, with a Postscript on Abu Ghraib
Bruce Lincoln (University of Chicago Press)


In his ingenious and disturbing book, Lincoln explores the rationales for torture offered by leaders of ancient Persia. He warns of the use and abuse of patriotism in states of imperial reach and power such as our own.

Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals
Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw (Zondervan)


Claiborne and Haw offer an uncompromising posture in which national loyalty is utterly alien to a person whose Lord is Jesus Christ. I prefer the critical patriotism of a Bonhoeffer or King, but such patriotism has no prayer without the witness of books like this.

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June 2012

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