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.
Talk about taking things to extremes. Ha Okay, so where you were technically right, weren’t you also being a smart ass about it all just to make your point? In the end, the point has to be worth the action and of course, you are the only one that can answer that.
Are you suggesting that shining a light on the church’s own idolatry makes me a smart ass?
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Of course, not. But I do know you probably enjoyed every single minute of it. LOL
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You might think… but on the contrary, I felt the weight of glory. I ushered in the battle between deities. God vs. god. I felt the scorn of everyone I love and whom until that moment thought they loved me.
It was the start of my shunning. I got shunned at that church and kicked out of the next. Things have never been the same since.
Used to be… I could at least wonder. I mean I kinda already knew I (we) was (were) in denial, but once the cards got played, I knew where Jesus really stood. I saw where that put me too.
A sad day. A fearful day. July 4, 2010… a date which lives in infamy for me.
I wonder if you regret it.
I don’t know how to answer that. I am truly isolated on the one hand, but the truth has come out now, on the other. And anyway, that same church moved on to endorse homosexual marriage and approve of it for church leadership. So, this, or something like it, was coming anyway on other grounds. It is the times we live in.
“Forgive them Father. They don’t know what they are doing.”
Think of that?
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Actually, yes. I have thought of that. I think of it frequently. I pray those same words for these churches. Perhaps I should explore and post on that. Not sure what it changes. But I truly hope God is working on some changes alright.
One Saturday I was on my way to the transfer station when I passed a church with a small crowd of men out front. I wondered what they were all doing gathering on the front lawn on a Saturday afternoon. As I went by I could see that they were erecting a big new flag pole with an American flag. Instantly I thought of all the kings of Israel and Judah, even the good ones, who could never bring themselves to tear down the high places. Of these kings it is repeatedly written, “Only the high places were not taken away.” And then of Hezekiah who, “removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. . .” When I saw the men on the church lawn, it seemed so clear that they were building a high place to their other god, the god of patriotism, the god of country, and it made me sad. If only the followers of Jesus would have as much passion about Him and His Kingdom as they do about this land of their sojourn.
Your prophetic demonstration was divisive, but in a good way. Reminds me of what Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” Prophecy reveals the heart, and leads one to reflection and repentance, or stubbornness and rebellion. Like you said, it seems clear which god most American patriots prefer.
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