Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Flying the Flags

I sometimes think that I'm a little bit persnickety (overparticular and fussy). Sometimes I chase after traditions that aren't commonly practiced. Other times I snub common place traditions that I don't understand.

After a summer of VBS-ing through various towns, I got very good at my pledges in churches. I helped with 7 VBSs in 9 weeks. We said the pledge to the Christian flag, the American flag, and to the Bible 5 days a week for 6 weeks.

Pledge to the Christian flag:
I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands. One brotherhood, uniting all Christians in service and love.

Pledge to the Bible:
I pledge allegiance to the Bible-God's Holy Word. And will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. And will hide its words in my heart-that I may not sin against God.

For those curious, this site summarizes the history of the Christian flag: how it was developed, when it was developed, what it stands for, etc.

My church has the American flag on stage right (the place of honor) and the Christian flag on stage left. And I'm not too fond of that. I run through multiple alternative scenarios...
1. The Christian flag should be given preference over the American flag and should get the coveted stage right spot of honor.
2. Every country that has a Christian inside its borders should have its flag displayed in churches around the world.
3. No flag of any country should be displayed inside a church.

And cue the patriotic-fueled arguments such as "America is a Christian nation." This is actually false. America is a nation where its people have freedom of religion. America has no national religion (see the first amendment). Under God was added to the American pledge in 1954 when America was anti-communist and the Communists were anti-religion, so therefore America was pro-religion. "In God We Trust" didn't become our national motto until 1956.

However, my first scenario is distinctly against "the flag code" which I didn't even realize existed. Section 175.k (it starts at 170) says that "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 or speaker's right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience." The Christian flag even has its own code of conduct.

Personally, I am against one nation's flag being displayed in the sanctuary for several reasons:
1. The church transcend national borders. Why should we elevate one nation over others?
2. The world was divided at the Tower of Babel and the creation of different languages. The church was united at Pentecost when people spoke in tongues. Insisting on national flags in the sanctuary doesn't show this unity.
3. There is no gender, social class, or nationality in the church (Col. 3:11, Gal. 3:28).
4. This is an ongoing argument and for some, a stumbling block (1 Cor. 10:31-33 and Matthew 18:6).
5. We can only serve one master (Matthew 6:24). Which comes first? Our God or our country?
6. America does things that the church doesn't endorse, but we still display its flag? Think abortion, war, lying, adultery, and other things which are directly against God's word.
7. Our top citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20)

I'm not saying that we shouldn't be respectful and obedient to our nation, which does give us many freedoms and rights. These rights have been paid for by the blood of those who fought, served, and sometimes died for our country.

My point is that God and our relationship with Him comes first. He doesn't play second fiddle to anyone or anything. When the protocol of the American flag dictates that it has to be given preference over the Christian flag or any other flag, I get a little bit persnickety and don't want my nation's flag to trump my faith.


  1. I think the reason you should follow the rules governing to the United States for displaying the American Flag is simple "Render to Caesar what is his and render to the Lord what is his"
    The Christian flag is just a symbol of our faith and shouldn't be what we worship so as far as I am concerned it really doesn't matter where it is in the church--we worship the Lord and that should be our focus and where the flags are it just a placement in a church. And as far as the church displaying the American flag vs. other flags we are in America--if I was in Australia I would expect their flag for example. And to be honest I really don't focus on the flags except for special occassions like Veteran's Day, Fourth of July, or VBS. I belive in most church the Bible would be the focus because it would be front and center!

    1. Janet, I do believe that if we display the American flag, we should follow the flag's protocol, but I just don't see why it is necessary to display a nation's flag in the church at all since Christianity is above national boarders.

  2. I like what is done in the national cathedral where one state flag is highlighted each week and that state is prayed for. Mom

    1. That seems like a cool prayer prompt!