A patriotic Christian?

I have sometimes found patriotism and my Christian faith incompatible. Songs, both new and old, about eschatological hope provide rich imagery of our destiny when we are finally with the Lord, but also, sometimes inadvertently, promote dissatisfaction with our current state of affairs.1 Indeed, no earthly government will surpass the majesty and perfection of the Son of God (Isaiah 9:6). But alas, while we are still part of this earthly home, how do we balance such tension?

Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon and composer Jusuf Kamadjaja demonstrate through their song “From Many Shores” that there is a Christian approach towards a Singaporean patriotism. The song addresses different aspects of national identity—history, community-building, vocational aspiration— under the sovereignty and grace of God. It recognises that God is the ultimate source of all things we get to enjoy, even the land which we call our home. We thus praise God who has mercifully nourished, protected and blessed our nation.

Noteworthily, stanzas 2 and 3 turn our attention towards our earthly neighbours with whom we share the land. As the apostle Paul instructs, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Far from ignoring or being indifferent about the political landscape, Paul reminds us to be active intercessors, keeping our leaders in prayer regardless of religious background so that they may be instruments of justice and righteousness, which pleases God.

Stanza 4 looks to the future, but unlike other songs, we are not whisked straight to heaven. We have heard it preached that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10- 11). However, perhaps not many of us have imagined what it may look or sound like if that were to happen here in our land.

With the simple line, “let every street and heartland”, it is a very sobering reminder that the name of Christ must be echoed beyond the four walls of our polished churches. Where is Christ’s name in the coffeeshops, the wet markets, and the void decks? This is where the refrain pulls it all together, galvanising Christians to be faithful witnesses, blessed to be a blessing unto others near and far.

There need not be a dichotomy between being a faithful Christian and being a loyal countryman. As the song demonstrates, our faith in Christ informs our patriotism to be good countrymen, where we are required “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God” (Micah 6:8 NIV).

From Many Shores

© 2004 Robert Solomon & Jusuf Kamadjaja (12 August 2004)

1 From many shores you gathered, our fathers, mothers all

And gave as home this island, so precious though so small

They toiled and built our nation, as You blessed them with grace

O God of our salvation, we seek Your holy face


Bless Singapore our home with peace, and make us a blessing,

to the nations near and far, we worship You our King,

may everyone know who You are!

2 We’re many tongues and colours, teach us to live as one

Bless all our dreams and labours, in all Your will be done

Help us to honour, cherish, all that is good and right

Let all Your people flourish, as we live in Your light

3 We pray for all our children, our leaders, workers too

That we would all be open, to trust Your word as true

Let righteousness and justice, Your mercy and Your love

Be found in home and office, as we each other serve

4 We know our strength is in You, our future in Your hands

Our nation Lord come renew, come heal and bless our land

Let every street and heartland, echo the name of Christ

To every heart and home extend, Your love Your grace Your light

1 “This World Is Not My Home” (A.P. Carter, 1931) and “Heaven” (Chris Tomlin, 2010) are good examples of casting the eyes of the believer to the eschaton, but in my analysis, also promotes dissatisfaction with where we currently are.

Justin Chan is a Programme Executive at Methodist School of Music, Worship & Church Music Department. As a reformed rock musician, he believes hymns and heavy metal can co-exist for the glory of God.