Monday, June 30, 2008

Here I go again . . .

It's that time of year - time for my annual church+flag=syncretism rant. The last time I blogged in this vein the link to my blog was deleted from at least one website. Hopefully I will communicate with a bit more grace this time around.

I opened the latest issue of a nearby church's newsletter today. On the cover was a picture of a large American flag with this poem, written by an unknown author:
O flag of our Union,
To you we'll be true,
To you red and white stripes,
And your stars on the blue;
The emblem of freedom,
The symbol of right,
We children salute you
O flag fair and bright!
Where to begin . . . First, let me say, once again, that I love my country. I thank God that I was born in what I believe is the best country on earth. I am grateful for the sacrifices that men and women have made throughout our nation's history to ensure our freedom. I celebrate Memorial Day and Independence Day along with my fellow patriots. Whenever our family gathers, we pray for our fellow Americans who are separated from their loved ones because their military service has them posted in some far off land - something my Navy-veteran father modeled for his children.

Having said that, can we as the church recognize that Christ's Kingdom is not of this world? Can we understand that it is not the US flag that is the symbol of freedom, but the cross? Can we at least admit that a flag is not the "symbol of right"; that our nation has been wrong occasionally.

Are we more right than other countries? Certainly. Is our ideal of freedom based on a government "of the people, by the people and for the people," the gold-standard of political freedom throughout the world? I believe it is. But, as the Church, we need to recognize that, when we proclaim freedom we need to focus - not on the freedom we have as Americans - but on the freedom we have in Christ!

We who are Christ-followers live in two worlds. We are Americans, yes, but we are Christians first, and blending the two is walking up to the line of idolatry. Proclaiming on the cover of one's church's premier publication that "we'll be true" to the flag is leaning over the line so far that I one is in danger of tumbling over.

Like many believers I know, I struggle with the tension that results in being faithful to Christ and loyal to my nation. I'll be the first to admit that I don't always balance that tension quite right. Indeed, I often find my thoughts and feelings on the subject ebbing and flowing. Having said that, I remain aware that, if I allow the church to simply reflect the patriotism of our flag-waving culture, I am in danger of, as Greg Boyd puts it in his book The Myth of a Christian Nation, reducing the cross to "the pole upon which a national flag waves."

PS - I welcome your thoughts and comments. I'd rather we at least dialog before my link is exiled to cyber-Siberia.

1 comment:

jeff said...

Where to start? I caught up on your posts this morning in the wake of having yesterday endured an awful sermon that strived to go...??? After floundering about and touching on several topics, some that would have made for a good sermon, the speaker landed on the far right (to be read: wrong) wing opinion that God sent His Son to save Americans. While that is true, Jesus came to save the world. At least that is the way I read the story. I could be wrong.
I could hardly stomach the ramblings. And I do mean ramblings as the majority of those in attendance had checked out after the first 6 or 8 minutes.
The poor guy went on about the differences between love and like. For example: One may say that he loves ice cream but that person really means that they like ice cream. Too bad he never caught on to the teaching on the different forms of love. I still really love ice cream, especially Moose Tracks or anything with lots of 'stuff' in it. I will never love ice cream in the same way that I do my children, my wife, my God and my Saviour. And I do love my country though I don't agape it. Never have. Never will.
So please, keep the flags off the same stage where Love, freedom, grace and hope are taught. There is simply no room for a flag where the cross of forgiveness and freedom is being displayed (proclaimed).