The US Flag at the Front of YOUR Church is Blasphemous

  
Via:  Bob Nelson  •  last year  •  14 comments

By:   Jeff Hood

The US Flag at the Front of YOUR Church is Blasphemous
 

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S E E D E D   C O N T E N T




512 A United States soldier processed the flag of the United States of America in to our sanctuary as we stood at attention singing "God Bless America." The veterans in our midst were honored as we sang the "Star Spangled Banner." The "Battle Hymn of the Republic" proceeded the pastor's fiery sermon on the coming destruction of our beloved nation if we "…did not turn from our wicked ways." Somehow gays, abortion and popular culture always made it into these services…but that is another story. The service concluded with an invitation to salvation as the congregation sang "God of Our Fathers." To say that the services of my Baptist youth were precariously wrapped in nationalism is an understatement…we believed that God's military was the United States military. Despite the fact that we did so much else that was problematic, my mind remains focused on the US flag on that gold stand up on the altar.

In many "patriotic" services throughout our nation, some of those who have fallen victim to our thirst for violence and power will be honored and celebrated. We will remember the soldiers and attempt to reconcile their sacrifice with our faith. Unfortunately, there will be little conversation about peace and preventing the deaths of any one else. There will be no conversation of the millions and millions of people who have died as a result of our failed foreign policies and military interventions. The words of Jesus will be forgotten amidst the words of nationalism.

No one will recite Jesus' words in Matthew 26:52, "…those who live by the sword will die by the sword." Matthew 5:44 and Jesus' reminder to "love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us" will not make an appearance. Least of all will we remember the millions and millions of people who have died in places with names like Hiroshima, Hanoi, Waziristan, Nagasaki, Kabul and Baghdad in the infernos created by our bombs…those "least of these" dead because we failed to see Jesus in their midst. No these words won't be remembered… and I know most congregations won't be talking beyond the soldiers who have died and will miss the opportunity to have a conversation about the wider call of Jesus to peace and justice.

My mind wonders back to that flag though. To put the US flag on the altar of a church is to insinuate that somehow the United States has a claim to the grace of God that other nations and peoples do not. To put the US flag at the front blurs that glorious declaration "For God so loved the world…" Can you imagine what someone from another country thinks when they see that United States flag up front at our churches? There is no nationality barrier to the altar of God. Jesus does not love the United States more than any other nation…to put a flag at the front and bless the atrocities committed by an incredibly powerful people in the name of Jesus is blasphemous.

A real conversation about the non-violent love of Jesus and our purpose as followers can only happen when we take down the United States flags in our sanctuaries that stand in the way. If we want to truly honor slain soldiers we will stop perpetuating the nationalism that killed them. So let's toss out all the flags…and start emulating Jesus' love for all people and kill the nationalism that fooled us into thinking that violence can bring about peace.

Amen.



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Bob Nelson
Professor Guide
1  seeder  Bob Nelson    last year

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A flag in the sanctuary... That's just about as far from His message as one can go.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2  JohnRussell    last year

excellent article

 
 
 
Snuffy
Masters Guide
3  Snuffy    last year

I disagree.  Yeah I know,  very strange that I would disagree.

There's also a passage about "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's".   In the church I grew up in we had a US flag at the front of the nave next to the arch leading to the alter. The flag was there to honor the country that safeguarded our First Amendment rights to worship God as we saw fit.  In addition, flags are draped on coffins of fallen servicemen during funeral services. So there is a place in the church for the flag.

Now that first picture of the flag draped over the cross is not something that I like at all and would love to see it removed. But we have seen symbols treated worse in the name of art so I don't get all worked up over it. 

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
Professor Guide
3.1  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Snuffy @3    last year
"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's

Caesar was the emperor of the world. Christ was telling us not to confound secular and religious. 

Who is "Caesar" in today's world? He would be all the governments in the world. So there's no reason, none at all, to imagine that He would favor one nation above the others. Well... unless one nation was conspicuous in its love and care for all the people of the world. 

P. S. : Your disagreement is perfectly legitimate. It is spot on topic.

 
 
 
Snuffy
Masters Guide
3.1.1  Snuffy  replied to  Bob Nelson @3.1    last year
Caesar was the emperor of the world. Christ was telling us not to confound secular and religious.  Who is "Caesar" in today's world? He would be all the governments in the world. So there's no reason, none at all, to imagine that He would favor one nation above the others. Well... unless one nation was conspicuous in its love and care for all the people of the world. 

Not entirely true.  Rome did not conquer India or China for example. But you are correct in that Christ was telling us to keep separate the secular and religious, to honor each side for that which belongs to each side.  However at the time of Christ, Caesar was the "ruler" of Judea so he was truly the figurehead of the government over Judea at the time. So that line in todays' world with churches in the US would cover the US flag. And as it is the US Constitution and Bill of Rights that provides us the First Amendment which includes the right to worship God as we see fit and the US Government that still protects and defends the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, I stand by my statement that there is a place in the church for the US Flag. 

However context does matter and I believe I showed where the flag is properly involved with the church and is not sacrilegious. Honoring the flag over religion is wrong and some of the examples the story has is wrong but there is a place in the church for the flag.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
Professor Guide
3.1.2  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Snuffy @3.1.1    last year

It seems to me that all nations can use exactly the same reasoning... which would leave each country with a little piece of Christ...

The flag on a coffin is a way of honoring the deceased's sacrifice for the country. It's a secular ceremony, which could be similar in any country. It is not actually a Christian thing. So that's OK with me... as long as it doesn't happen in the church, which is supposed to belong to Christ.

 
 
 
Snuffy
Masters Guide
3.1.3  Snuffy  replied to  Bob Nelson @3.1.2    last year
It seems to me that all nations can use exactly the same reasoning

Yes, most or all nations could say that.  There are a handful of nations that do not guarantee freedom of religion so I don't think they should use such reasoning but there's nothing I can do to stop that.

which would leave each country with a little piece of Christ...

Christ's final command to his disciples was “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”  In the vernacular of the time that meant to teach what he taught, be witnesses of his life, preach repentance and the forgiveness of sin, “feed” the “sheep,” and baptize in his name. Using that one could say that each country already had a little piece of Christ.

The flag on a coffin is a way of honoring the deceased's sacrifice for the country. It's a secular ceremony, which could be similar in any country. It is not actually a Christian thing. So that's OK with me... as long as it doesn't happen in the church, which is supposed to belong to Christ.

Disagree.  Many funerals are held in churches. It all depends on if the recently departed was religious or not, and what the survivors want. My father's funeral was in our church and his coffin was draped with the US Flag as he served in Korea. I played TAPS at many military funerals while I was in high school and all such services started at the churches.  Small mid-west town, we did not have a non-religious funeral the entire time I was there.

As i stated above,  the church I grew up in had the US Flag in the front of the nave next to the arch to the alter. The purpose of the flag there was not to promote the country but to honor the country that works to guarantee our Freedom of Religion. I do personally draw the line when the church involves itself into politics and promotes specific candidates or tells it's congregation to vote a certain way. I don't like that and I don't support that. But we both know that it happens due to human nature. But in the great scheme of life I think this is a small issue, no greater than allowing groups to make and purchase TV ads for the politicians of their choice.  Unappealing but not that big of a deal to me.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
Professor Guide
3.1.4  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Snuffy @3.1.3    last year
Many funerals are held in churches. 

Of course, and that's fine. A religious ceremony and a civil ceremony and a military ceremony... are all legitimate. They can be organized to not interfere with each other. Because they should not.

The purpose of the flag there was not to promote the country but to honor the country that works to guarantee our Freedom of Religion.

This is trickier. It's kinda contrary to "render unto Caesar". Which, as I've said, is a whole bunch of Caesars in today's world. A Christian's political activity should not be within the church. And their religious activities should not be political. Early Christians' political activities sometimes included getting eaten by lions.... 

 
 
 
Snuffy
Masters Guide
3.1.5  Snuffy  replied to  Bob Nelson @3.1.4    last year
This is trickier. 

Actually to me it's very simple.

It's kinda contrary to "render unto Caesar".

No,  it's really not.  In Christs time when he said to render unto Ceasar he was talking about paying taxes. Ceasar as head of the government had his image on the coins of the realm and everybody paid their taxes so the idea was to pay the Roman taxes with Roman coin, hence render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar.

Which, as I've said, is a whole bunch of Caesars in today's world

I was most definitely talking about the US, not other countries.  In the time of Christ, Judeans were governed by Rome (ie by Ceasar). Today Americans are governed by Washington. We (US Citizens) are not governed by the government of England,  or the government of Russia, or the government of Egypt. So while there may be heads of state in other countries who consider themselves the equal of Ceasar, it doesn't matter in this context. We here are still citizens of the US and as such our government is in Washington. A symbol of that government is the US flag. 

A Christian's political activity should not be within the church. And their religious activities should not be political.

And I disagree because I feel you are being too harsh in your interpretation. There is nothing wrong with discussions of a political nature in a church setting and there is nothing wrong with allowing your religious teaching to lend strength to your political convictions. Context matters, as in all things. Discussing issues of a political nature is to me ok in a church setting,  having the church make official policy that it demands it's congregation to follow in regards to a political stance is wrong. The church should not campaign for specific laws or candidates, IMO the only policy a church should have is to vote as your conscience and your heart tells you to. 

And I believe it's good and correct to allow your religious teachings and beliefs to lend strength to your political convictions. Where this goes wrong IMO, is when people attempt to pull the literal meaning and use that as an argument for attempting to rule over someone else's life. Exodus may talk about homosexuality, but it also talks about selling daughters into slavery. When Christ came into power he transformed the church from old testament Wrath of God to Love of God. 

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that we are human and it is in our nature to mix such authorities together. I think most everybody would be very hard pressed to keep the two ideas totally separate. Their beliefs and teachings from one will tend to bleed over into the other area.  But like everything in life there are limits. I see nothing wrong with the US Flag inside a church in the US. I would find it strange to see a US Flag inside a church in Russia. Where I draw the line is where one authority (church or state) attempts to rule the other.

 
 
 
Snuffy
Masters Guide
3.1.6  Snuffy  replied to  Bob Nelson @3.1.4    last year

But hey, thanks for the discussion.  It's been interesting.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
Professor Guide
3.1.7  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Snuffy @3.1.5    last year
there is nothing wrong with allowing your religious teaching

I agree. 

BUT!

I limit it to "Love one another" and associated teachings. "The greatest good for the greatest number" is the basis for all my political ideas. 

Far too often, clergy imposes itself, pretending to be the will of God. There's next to nothing about abortion anywhere in the Bible, but some clergy twist any old text to mean whatever they wish. IMNAAHO, that's wrong on both religious and secular grounds.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
Professor Guide
3.1.8  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Snuffy @3.1.6    last year

Yes, it has been a pleasure. 

 
 
 
Tacos!
Professor Guide
4  Tacos!    last year

The flag should not be in the church or on the cross. Although, as Snuffy mentioned, I would have no problem with it being draped over a coffin for a military funeral. 

Our church does not have the Stars and Stripes, though we do pray in a very general way for the country or our leaders.

We do have rainbows, though!

 
 
 
XXJefferson51
Senior Guide
4.1  XXJefferson51  replied to  Tacos! @4    last year

We have both the American flag and the Christian flag on poles in the front of our Church inside.  On a side wall are flags of nations that our local church has sent missionaries to in recent years.  

 
 

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