Commentators are making much of the declarations by Major Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, that he is a Muslim first and an American second. He’s also claimed to be Palestinian, so maybe he’s American third (if not lower).
We might want to pause for a moment while we consider where we place our own priorities. I have often heard that we should place God first, then family, then country. As followers of Christ, we are called to be in the world but not of the world. We should have a certain degree of detachment from the nationalist passions of our neighbors, regardless of where we live. Our true home is heaven, and no matter where we are on earth, we are in exile from our true home.
Do I consider myself a Catholic before I consider myself an American? You bet! Fortunately, there’s no conflict between the two. History is marked, however, by the blood of martyrs for whom there was a conflict. Consider the first centuries of the Church, during the Roman persecutions. Consider figures like St. Thomas More, who declared, “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”
If, at some point in the (distant, if ever, I pray) future, Catholics are deemed enemies of the American state, it is never too early to ask yourself where your loyalty will lie.