TURES COLUMN: Is it inappropriate to display the flag in worship?

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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It was an interesting editorial on a Christian news site. The writer, a pastor, made the unilateral decision to remove the American flag from his church’s worship center. He said the flag promoted “Christian nationalism” and was inappropriate since ultimate allegiance belongs to the Lord. He insisted the flag was in competition with the church’s mission.

Of course, he faced some blow-back. I imagine long-time members were first to criticize their pastor, followed by the congregation’s veterans. But he stood firm. At least as of that writing he yet retained his job.

It reminded me of some blow-back I got for removing a Bible.

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The previous pastor kept a large Bible on the pulpit at all times. He called it “the church’s Bible,” and he read his text from it every week. It was cumbersome and in my way. I preferred to use my own Bible, and sometimes another translation, so I removed it. Only one lady berated me afterwards, so I guess all in all I was unscathed.

Later a friend told me he’d had the same experience, but he put the large pulpit Bible on a stand on the communion table. When asked why, he explained he “wanted everyone to enjoy it.”

He was much smarter than me.

So what about the flag? The Virginia pastor was unwise in my judgment. He picked a battle over an issue of his own making.

When we sing the National Anthem and salute the flag on July 4 or Veteran’s Day, we’re not worshiping America! We’re thanking God for America and humbly asking his blessings on our nation. In our heart of hearts we understand our ultimate allegiance to God. As the Apostle Peter said so long ago, “We ought to obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29).

I attended a Sunday evening service at a neighboring Baptist church last spring to hear a guest pastor from Nigeria. This man had been to Washington to lobby for his nation being placed again on the list of “Countries of Particular Concern.” For some reason the Biden administration removed the CPC. 

According to our speaker, this designation mandates that American government recognize and protest persecution of Christians in Nigeria where hundreds have been killed for their faith.

Nevertheless, Nigerian flags were displayed in the Alabama sanctuary and smaller flags were for sale at the book table. Surely no one was worshiping Nigeria. The flag reminded us to pray for this nation and for brave Christians who struggle.

I cannot believe that an American flag is somehow offensive in worship. At the very least it reminds us of our freedom to worship under the First Amendment, unlike our dear brothers and sisters in Nigeria.