Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why do churches in this country display American flags?

Why do churches in this country display American flags? I don't mean to sound rude or unpatriotic, but seriously, who are we there to worship? Who are we there to pledge allegiance to? Who are we supposed to look to first...our flag or our God?

Who are we supposed to look upon as our brethren? Christians? Americans? What about the non-Christians? What about the non-Americans? What about the folks that have different beliefs than us? What about the 'bad' people?

My Bible tells me that ALL of us descended from two people, and that our original national affiliation was Garden of Edenites. That means that those people in China are my brothers and sisters....even the communist ones. That means that those folks in Africa and are my brothers and sisters, even though they don't live in my neighborhood. So, why, when I am thinking of Jesus...when I am worshipping Jesus, should my thoughts rest on the flag of the United States of America? Are these the most worthy of my brothers and sisters? Are these the most important of my brothers and sisters? Are these the only folks worth dying for?

Check this out. Choose 'launch movie' when you go to this link.


Wendy M. said...

Hmm - I love you like a sis, Nat, but I gotta' respectfully disagree with you on this one. I think as Christians it's okay to be proud to be an American. Allowing our country to be represented within our church in no way indicates that we have to worship our flag/country, nor should we, but I absolutely think it's our job to respect it.

In fact, it's completely Biblical - in 1 Timothy 2: 1-4 (which in the NIV is tagged as Instructions for Worship), it says that we should pray for Kings (presidents in the case of the USA) and all those in authority. I love the Message version - it says:

"The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live."

I believe that an American flag in our church simply serves as a reminder that we are to be in constant prayer and support of our leaders. We may not agree with them - and often I don't - but it is still our job to pray for them and even be submissive to them (Romans 13:1). Check out the Message version of Romans 13:1-7:

1-3 Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it's God's order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you're irresponsible to the state, then you're irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you're trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.
3-5Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you'll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you're breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren't there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That's why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it's the right way to live.

6-7That's also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.

I wrote somewhere else recently that I see loving our country and God as similar to loving that 2nd never think there's going to be enough love for another child because you love that 1st one SO much. But what I found out when Kayla got here was that love is not a zero sum game - it grows to encompass so much more. While I would never say love your country ABOVE God - I certainly think it's okay to love God AND our country.

I'm very proud to be an American. Our government sure doesn't do everything right and as time passes, I think they make poorer and poorer decisions, but the facts are that we, as a country, have done more good in this world than any other place on earth. Is it enough? NO WAY!! And should we discount those who weren't born here as less than us - NO WAY! Do we sometimes? Sure we do, but let those without sin cast that first stone, right? Our country is definitely messed up in a lot of ways, but it's still the best place in the world, I believe!

I watched the video that you linked to and it breaks my heart - I don't think protesting the war or anything else about the government's decisions is UnAmerican at all...I think it's one of those rights that we have that so many in the world do not - the right to disagree with our gov't. And for me, that's even more reason to love our country and respect our flag.

Love you!! :)

koinonia community said...

Hey Wendy! Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate you sharing. I just want to clarify some things so that you understand my intent.

I don't believe I said that it was wrong to show respect for or love one's country. I sure don't feel that way. I consider myself blessed that God placed me in a place of such freedoms and privleges. I consider it an honor and blessing that He chose this place, in my family, as the special location to place me. This is a beautiful and diverse country.

My issue is with the placement of the American flag in our churches, however.

We fought so hard to establish a country that would permit us the ability to seperate the church and the State. We not only wanted the ability to worship our own God, but we did not want our government stepping in to tell us how we could do it.

Especially in recent history, people have fought hard to keep any religious symbols of worship out of government buildings and even in the personal offices of many government employees. I know first-hand that State employees in the prison system are not permitted to wear religious symbols for fear of offending the prisoners that are athiests or from different religions. Many employees of non-governmental offices are even forbidden from displaying a cross or star of david or religious texts in their working spaces. I have heard of many being demoted or even fired for standing their ground. Remember the recent outrages over "In God We Trust" even being on buildings.

Yet we place an American flag, another symbol of worship, in the place of honor on the right side of our pulpits. And we submit to their guidelines to it's placement. I quote from a handbook on American Flag etiquette; "When used on a speaker's platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman's of speaker's right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker of the right of the audience."

It truly is a symbol of worship. We pledge allegiance to it. Soldiers salute it. We do not permit it to touch the ground, or to fly in weather that could cause it to face damage. We hold it in reverence. It is a symbol that represents our country as the symbol of the cross represents our Jesus. In the correct context, it is a symbol of what we believe our country stands for.

But I believe in the context of church, it is a distraction from the reason for our being there - to worship our Lord and Saviour. I believe it is wrongly used as a tool to seperate us from the people of other countries. Many people wrongly view it as a symbol of power and superiority, and until that point of view changes, it will be a stumbling block to many people seeking to follow the teachings of Jesus. I pray that that general point of view will change.

It is true that the Bible tells us to pray for rulers and all those in authority. We should pray daily for all those in authority in our country and others. We are also instructed to pray for our enemies. I find myself praying for the rulers of this county, the rulers of Zimbabwe, China, Russia, and so many others on a daily basis. I pray that everyone, if they are not yet doing so, would begin doing this. We are capable of bringing about positive change in the world through both our actions and our prayers. It is through the love and compassion that Christ showed toward his enemies, and those in authority, when he asked God to forgive them, that he set himself apart from the people of the world. And we should always strive to follow his example.

Anonymous said...

Preach on sister! Who is the focus on? Who should it be on?

XO, Heather

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the very first Christian churches should have flown the Roman flag to the right of Paul the Apostle while he preached about how we can be in the world, without being "of" the world? Maybe the other disciples of Jesus should have been more obedient and "submissive" to the Roman government by denouncing Christ as the Messiah. Do you think that Judus may have been the most "patriotic" out of the whole dozen, since he assisted the Roman soldiers in fulfilling Ceasar's orders? Thanks to Wendy M. for droppin' Bible verses on us. I am glad we live in a country that allows us to "quietly go about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation," as was quoted from 1 Timothy 2:1-4. Surely a country as great as ours is so exceptional, as to transcend the plea of 1 Corinthians 3:21-23
"So don't take pride in following a particular leader. Everything belongs to you... and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God." (NLT)
Besides, George W. is the man... and like Wendy M., I agree that, "as Christians it's okay to be proud to be an American." How's that for a quote? I would go on to quote the disciple, Mark, in Mark 7:21-22, but since he is clearly rambling... I would say that some of those things that "defile a man" must have been misinterpreted. I mean, come on... being "proud to be an
American" is not only a quote, but a song as well. However, back to the Biblical references. I happen to think that America is so awesome, that God would never talk to U.S. the way he did Israel in Amos 7:8
"I dispise the arrogance of Israel, and I hate their fortresses. I will give this city and everything in it to their enemies." (NLT)
I mean, really, their fortresses weren't nearly as cool as ours. Furthermore, in Zephaniah 3:11, when God says, "I will remove all the proud and arrogant people from among you. There will be no pride on my holy mountain." (NLT)... I think it goes without saying... Party in the valley! for people like Wendy M. and I, who will rock the red, white, and blue until the saints come home... because "these colors don't run." Besides, when Jesus said to love our enemies, he only meant the ones that our government hasn't told us we should kill.