Friday, November 11, 2005

Christian Patriotism or Nationalism?

A disturbing trend has developed in America’s churches, the growth of which has been so subtle that it has largely escaped our notice. In fact, we have been so unaware of the rising danger in our churches and have come to accept the subtle changes step by step, that many of us will see this developing trend as a positive thing (I once did). The trend has been toward an acceptance, even an embracing, of civil religion.

The issue has been breeched on this website on a couple of occasions (here and here), but has yet to be dealt with head-on. In researching for the “head-on” article I intended to write I ran across a couple of essays that address the issue better than I could have. One, entitled "Nationalism in the Sanctuary," deals with the issue in a straightforward and biblical manner. The second, entitled “The Critical Patriot,”, discusses the appropriate attitude of a Christian patriot and outlines the proper relationship between our loyalty to God and our loyalty to country.

My own observations deal mainly with how our churches came to so revere the state (be it the military, the president, the flag, veterans, or whatever) that we have engaged in activity that, if it is not outright idolatry, certainly approaches it. I don’t know when the practice of placing an American flag in the sanctuary (like the one pictured above) began but I’m sure it was met with little resistance. What could be wrong with identifying our church as an “American” one? Nothing, right? That's why flags like the one above are as much a fixture in our churches as pulpits. Who could foresee a time when churches would participate in full-fledged services that completely ignore the cross of Christ and the glory of God in favor of “old glory” and pledging allegiance to the state (as seen in the photo below)?

The time has come to prayerfully consider what we are doing in our churches and to ask some difficult questions. What is the purpose of the Church? If it exists for the glory of God alone (as I’m convinced Scripture says), then is our Church engaged in activity for the glorification of another? What does the Bible say about it? What would God have us do?

I look at the picture below and imagine what my reaction would be if it were in a slightly different context. What if that was a first century church? What if the American flag on the wall was an enormous painting of Caesar instead? What if those Christians were swearing loyalty to an earthly emperor in a place designated specifically for the worship of God? Would I then consider their behavior appropriate or biblical? More importantly, would God?


At 7:37 PM, Blogger David said...

You are so right. Why is it that so many Christians have bought into this Ralph Reed claptrap and have done the samething as the money changers in the temple?

At 7:42 PM, Blogger David said...

Abraham Lincoln had it right. Our task should not be to invoke religion and the name of God by claiming God’s blessing and endorsement for all our national policies and practices - saying, in effect, that God is on our side. Rather, as Lincoln put it, we should worry earnestly whether we are on God’s side. - Jim Wallis, from God's Politics

At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Cadence Meeks said...

I don't know. I think it is very Christian to be patriotic. After all, doesn't the Bible encourage good citizenship?

I certainly don't see anything wrong with honoring the flag of the country that gives us the freedom to worship. It seems appropriate, somehow, to take time in a worship service to honor the country that gives us the right to be worshipping in the first place.

At 1:53 PM, Anonymous Frank Speach said...

Cadence -- you are falling prey to a huge misconception: our country does not GIVE us the right to be worshipping in the first place. It can only protect or infringe on that right. Our rights, according to the Declaration of Independence, are endowed upon us by our Creator. Our rights are given to us by God. We have them by virtue of our birth.

And it is highly inappropriate to be swearing our loyalty to an object (pledging allegiance to a flag), especially when we gather as the church. The church is the group of people God has saved for Himself and for His glory and it is nothing short of idolatry when we gather in His name and then swear our allegiance to another.

At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree we are not a Covenant nation like, Israel. But when I say the Pledge Of Allegiance To The Flag, I am not pledging my allegiance to this nation but recognizing God's right to rule over this nation. For all governing authority comes from Him alone, who bestows it.

If one reads the writings of the framers of our Constitution, one understands that they saw God's hand involved in the formation of this nation. Certainly not all of them were Christian but they acknowledged an all powerful force at work guiding them in their deliberations and opened every session in prayer.

In the early years of our Government, funds and permissions were granted to support Christian mission outreach throughout this nation.

The Ivy League colleges trained Christian missionaries and promoted the spread of the Gospel message to the world.

As a Christian, I have a duty to obey the governing authorities of this nation and do what is right. I have a duty to pray for this nation and to seek to help the people of this nation to recognize we are a nation under God's rule.

At 9:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I go to a Baptist church, and in this church on every Sunday morning we pledge say the pledge to the American flag, the Christian flag, and the Bible. It didn't feel right for me to do. I ended up only saying the pledge to the Bible. This topic does need to be discussed and brought up. I think you did a fine job. I still have more thought and research to make up my mind about this topic, but I am almost certain that, as you allude to, that saying the pledge to the American flag is not something to be done in church.

At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

pledge to the bible and christian flag... my son is in a pre-k program at a local baptist church.
I was stunned to hear of the pledge to the christian flag and the bible.

To me, this is nationalism in the church... faith is about faith, devotion, not a pledge of allegience. The bible is a guide, and a story, not something to pledge allegience to. That seems to be making religion into something else... a nation with in a nation... and that scares me.

This, to me, runs against what I understand Christianity to be about. But that's my take.

My wife told me that she had this pledge in the baptist church she grew up in, but the one she attended later was more 'mainline' bapstist and did not do this.

At 8:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And to comment.. taking a pledge toa christian flag is completely different than acknowledging God's influence and guiding hang.
But do you need to pledge your allegience to believing that?

I don't know, based on my readings, it doesn't sound like this is compatable.

At 12:48 AM, Anonymous JesusisLord said...

Blessings to you all in Jesus our Lord. This is a blessing and I see the trouble in the church of pledging allegiance to anything or one else outside of Godly allegiance and every other allegiance should be due to our allegiance to Him and then only in the way He says. This goes way beyond just in the church building but in the church as a people. For we are a nation set forth to praise God through Jesus our Lord in Spirit and truth. We are strangers on the earth or another word foreigners in this world for our citizenship and Kingdom is that of heaven. There is a really blessed book on this subject called the Christian Patriot by Alonzo Jones from around 1895-1905 somewhere in there. The best book though is the Bible and the Ante Nicene writings concerning the matter of how we who have entered the Kingdom of God are to interact with the kingdoms of this world May we grow in love, grace, mercy, truth, justice and peace in Jesus our Lord.

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At 10:50 AM, Blogger Maria Mitchell said...

@Cadence - Our country doesn't give us the freedom to worship - God does. If the almighty State said it was wrong to worship God, would you still do it? I would, because obeying God is much preferable to obeying the State.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Maria Mitchell said...

Laurence Vance has written extensively on this subject - and there are lectures on YouTube by him as well.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Maria Mitchell said...

At 10:01 AM, Blogger Joe Fincham said...

As a 65 yr. old Army (viet nam era)veteran, let me start of by saying that I consider myself a patriot,I served my time and I'm happy I did, I agree with you 100%. But as one can see by the posts, people today would rather hear that 'grandpa went to hell because he wasn't saved' than they would, 'take the flag out of the church'! I see the problem first hand working with young people in the church...they start to 'equate' church with country. this is idolatry, even though you may not like to hear it...Most churches I know of don't even have the spirituality to salute the Christian flag first, they salute the US flag. We witnessed the result when some of our young ones defined a picture of the US flag with 'Jesus'. Now..what happens when this country turns totally against the church and they have to decide on which loyalty is most deserved. Actually, I think we're already seeing it displayed in life practices. This only helps in making a carnal/worldly Christian more so....As Francis Schaeffer pointed out many yrs.ago...
"Accommodation only leads to more accommodation ,which leads to moreaccomodation..." At best, it's a noble move by some to honor the country, at worst, it's putting something on par with the heavenly kingdom. And we wonder why the church is getting more wordly???


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