Monday, March 25, 2013

The American Flag and Churches

Maybe you've noticed. Maybe you haven't. PCC does not have an American flag on the platform. We don't have one in the building. We don't even have a Christian flag.

I've only been asked why 2 or 3 times in our fifteen years, each time by a visitor from another church where flags were on display.  No one from PCC has ever asked me.  I suppose it's just not that big of a deal.  However there are reasons behind the decision.

Before I give the reasons why – let me say this clearly: I am a proud American. I am patriotic. I'm a law abiding citizen. My family has a long history of military service. I have served my country in the U.S. Army, and was deployed overseas twice. If called to serve in war, I would do my duty. I am one of those who stands to my feet when the National Anthem is played, and I still believe in the Pledge of Allegiance. For all our faults, I would not want to live in any other county.

Okay. Point made. Nuff said.

1. The first reason we do not have an American flag on the platform is that our church services have a single focus – we have gathered to worship God, not admire our country. As good as patriotism is, it does not have equal standing with worship. Frankly, many people confuse the two, or mesh them together as one.

American flags were first displayed in church by Catholics. About 150 years ago, Catholics were accused of being more loyal to the Pope than to our country, so they began displaying American flags to prove they could be loyal to both. Two world wars later and protestant churches who sponsored Boy Scout troops increased the popularity of displaying the flag from platforms. Now, some churches simply go over the top with patriotic themes in their services.

2. Our church has members from other countries who are not American citizens. Why on earth would we subject them to patriotic songs or themes? They would automatically be excluded from worship. How would you like to be in Iran, fellowship with your brothers and sisters in the Lord, when they begin singing about the glories of their country or parading their national flag in the service? Would you be comfortable with that?  Would it create unity or division in the Body?

3. Jesus does not salute the American flag or pledge an allegiance to it. We are not His favorite country, and believe it or not, some of our national policies are abhorrent to Him. Blending worship with patriotism is to be “unequally yoked” with the world.

4.  The MAIN reason we do not have an American flag on the platform is because of the law.... and it's conflict with Holy Scripture.

According to Section 175k of the U.S. Flag Code, “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 honor at the clergyman's or speaker's right as he faces the audience.”

This presents two problems in a church meeting:

  • First, if a stage has an American flag and a Christian flag – the Christian flag, BY LAW, must be in a subservient position. I am not an American first and a Christian second. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, first and foremost.
By the way, the only time a Christian flag can be displayed "above" an American flag is on a Navy ship during a chapel service. Other than that time - the Christian flag MUST fly below the American flag.

  • Second, even if the American flag is the only one on the platform, it is required by law to hold a position of greatest honor.  That presents both a theological problem and an issue of conscience.  The Bible tells us that God has exalted His Name and His Word above all things (Psalms 138:2), and that Christ should have preeminence in all things (Colossians 1:18). I don't think we should exalt ANYTHING except Jesus Christ and the Word in a worship service.  It's one thing to exalt the flag at a sporting event, public ceremony, military or civic events, but not at a worship service that is specifically dedicated to worship God, to teach His law, and introduce people to Him.


Ron said...

More than 250 hits on this topic today.

Ron said...

...make that 300+

Jewel Christian said...

Thank you for explaining why PCC does not have the American Flag on display on the platform inside our church.

A few years ago someone asked me why we didn't have the American Flag on display on the platform & I didn't know the answer.

Now, I know & understand.