July 4th 2010 fell on a Sunday. I knew that my Church of Christ heritage was slow to blend Christian faith with patriotism, but I also could plainly see that changing over the course of my life. This is a trend that should not be. The whole idea of “God and country” is a mistake. God once promised a land to his people, now he promises the whole world (Matt. 28:19), not just a small bit of Palestine. No single nation is a God-nation, and this one certainly is not “under God” as we claim. No. This nation is in full rebellion from God. It’s flag and the nation for which it stands are too proud to belong to God, the Father of Jesus our Lord.
Pride. American pride. If ever there is an attitude the Bible does not condone, but in fact abhors, pride surely comes to mind – except not so much to the American mind.
Yes, after watching American flag lapel pins and neck ties begin showing up in worship services over the course of my life, I began to wonder how long it might be before someone brings a full-blown American flag right into the church building. So many other churches, both Protestant and Catholic, already do this. When Independence Day falls on a Sunday, many, if not most, of these churches officially sanction and celebrate the holiday. How long before the Churches of Christ turn their back on the humility of Christ and embrace the hubris of empire and the Tower of Babel?
I saw this coming. I prayed about it. I did not expect our church to engage in a full sanctioned celebration, but I did count on many of our members wearing the holiday colors and symbols. I did count on the preacher giving the day some honorable mention – and likely others as well. And, in fact, all of those things came to pass as expected. But then I wondered what prophetic act God would be pleased with in the face of such pride taking hold of the hearts and minds of his beloved church. What prophetic act would address this?
It then occurred to me that the American flag, the symbol of pride, should bend the knee to God in God’s house. I could not pluck all the lapel pins off; I could not take everyone’s neck ties; I could not strip ladies of their scarves and sweaters. But I did own a large American flag that I could take to church with me and make it bend the knee there.
So I brought an American flag to church. It seemed like the time had come. This would be a celebration of that proud symbol humbly bowing to our Great God.
Yes, I took my flag to church that Sunday. When I entered the church, I unfurled it and took hold of it by one end in my left hand – the same hand in which I also carried my Bible. In doing this, I created a prophetic display. I let the tail of the flag drag around on the floor behind me everywhere I went throughout the building and throughout the duration of Sunday school and worship.
Yes, I dragged that American flag around on the floor in the House of God. Yes, it got stepped on by me and by others. Yes, it was a bold action displaying the Bible and the flag together with that proud flag bowing in humility inside the House of God.
I got some strange glares from some of my brothers and sisters that Sunday. No one had the guts to confront me face to face about it, but I did hear one church leader express his fear that I might get punched in the face for it.
A week later, one brother, an older gentleman I respect, came to confront me about it. He claimed he had not actually seen it, but of course had heard. He did not approve of my action at all, and he wanted to express that to me. He asked why I did it. He was cordial with me – even respectful as he disagreed with me. I do not believe he actually listened to my response, for in my opinion, his expression seemed to glaze over as I spoke. But he did confront me and treat me with respect. He was the only one.
But after that, I was functionally shunned at church. I never was asked to lead anything after that. No prayers, no communion, no Bible classes, nothing. When I did speak up, my words were no longer heeded or respected. The social wagons all got circled up with me on the outs.
Wanna find out if your brothers and sisters worship God or something else? Try it. Find out. Such a simple gesture, really. It’s not like I stomped it, burned it, or dragged through the mud. I am sure the same exercise done on a street corner would be more dangerous to my health, but that would not be making that proud flag bend the knee in the House of God – the one place it absolutely MUST. But the hearts definitely hardened up like stone, as they came to be more fully what they were longing for anyway.
There is still time to repent, church. Yeah, I am talking to you. Get on your knees, church, and ask God if Jesus died for your American flag. Show me even one verse in that Bible that says he did. In fact, if you can find the words “American” or “flag” in it, I will repent. If you can’t, then you are stuck until you do.