The National Anthem, the Flag and the Gospel: An increasingly problematic combination

“If you don’t want to stand for the National Anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots AT you since they’re taking shots FOR you.”–Pastor Allen Joyner at an Alabama high school football game on Friday night.
Friends, I have a great deal of respect for the flag and for the nation and the freedoms it represents. Precisely because it represents those freedoms, the flag is also a symbol for some of our failure to insure that those freedoms are for all and are experienced by all. Over time, those who have been denied the full freedoms of citizenship (and those who wish to protest actions by the United States) have desecrated the flag or refused to salute, pledge, sing the national anthem or otherwise honor the flag as a symbolic protest, not against the freedoms the flag represents, but against our failure to live up to the promise of that flag and what it represents.
Many people I care about very much view those actions as unAmerican or even unforgivable. Many view such actions as disrespect directed toward those who have died, served, and sacrificed for our nation.
Others note that actually demonstrating respect for those noble people and their memories is more important that symbolic actions associated with the flag.
I completely respect all of these diverse views even if, in many cases, I do not agree with them.
If the freedoms the flag represents mean anything at all, they also include the freedom not to salute, not to stand, not to honor, and if one purchases their own flag, the right to use that flag in some form of protest, up to and including burning–an act which to this day inspires in me a visceral response of anger and disgust, but which I have no legal right to prevent–so long as those who are engaging in that act are willing to accept the consequences of their actions in the sphere of public opinion. Hear that clearly. People have a right to do that–and you have a right to think they are terrible for doing so…and they can’t say that you don’t have that right to hate what they have done, just like you can’t say they don’t have the right to protest with the flag.
But this, this is a totally different matter. This is a minister of the gospel calling for death, albeit facetiously, for those who will not salute the flag by standing for the National Anthem.
Perhaps he needs a lesson in Biblical and church history. For most of the first 300 years of its existence, the Christian church would not baptize and, indeed, barred from membership, those who were soldiers in service to Rome or local authorities–because they had to swear and oath of loyalty to someone other than God in Christ.
Take that in for a moment. If you had stood up and said the Pledge of Allegiance (had it existed) in the year 200, you would be BARRED from baptism, barred from membership in the church.
I’m not saying that’s a good thing, I’m just noting that it has been the traditional view of the church that fealty to Christ is more important that fealty to one’s nationality, race, gender, sexuality or any other human characteristic, trait or community. This pastor’s position is, therefore, inconsistent with Christian doctrine. Today, as a matter of religious devotion to God, Jehovah’s Witnesses and a few other sects, will not stand, will not sing, will not recite the pledge.
I try and remember the words of the Apostle Paul and the words we would need to add to his instruction in our current day….
“We are no longer slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male and female…..(American nor Syrian, citizen nor refugee, cisgender nor transgender, flag waiver nor flag burner)…for all are one in Christ Jesus.
Just my opinion.

Author: RevKirby

Middle-aged progressive ex-lawyer/pastor in Evanston with keen interest in justice, law, theology, show tunes, history and trivia.

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