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Why is the American Flag in Church?

May 8, 2013

Many churches display the American Flag near, or on, the pulpit. I find this quite odd. We are a body of believers, followers of Christ the King. Yet, we maintain a flag on the pulpit paying honor to a government. While we do have a blessing of worshiping in a country where this freedom is protected by the Constitution, does the flag really belong in a church?

Last week I spent time speaking with people about flags in their churches. Most congregants are not sure why there is a flag in their church. Some have the flag on a wall with flags of other nations reminding the church where they currently have, or support, missionaries. Yet others stated there was no flag in their church.

After speaking with several pastors, most do not know why they have a flag there. The typical answer is “tradition.” If tradition is the sole reason for the flag being in the worship area, the church should revisit why it is there. A church moves very intentionally and deliberately in their mission. To leave something which might give a conflicting message because of tradition is to undercut the intentionality of the body. Others state the flag is there to honor the nation in which their church rests. To that I would ask would we put a flag on the pulpit in China or Afghanistan where oppression is rampant.

As a combat veteran, many expect me to appreciate the flag being displayed in main worship areas. Yet, I do not believe it should be in there. The worship space in a church is there to host a gathering of believers to focus corporate worship to gain and hear teaching of God. It is not a VFW or American Legion hall, but a house of worship. I can appreciate and support the display of the flag with other nation’s flags to remind congregants to pray for missionaries in these nations, or a flag draped over a coffin. I cannot support the display of a flag on the pulpit. It is an intermingling of the Holy and the unholy.

Please weigh in on this. For some reason, Christians tend to shy from this topic. Many feel it unpatriotic to speak against a flag on the pulpit. This is a much-needed conversation. Honor The King, and then country.

  1. David Stephens permalink

    I was visiting FBC Buffalo Gap last week and found that they had an American Flag displayed there. While I have no issue with the flag being present or not present, however I can certainly understand how given the current variables involved in American politics it would be uncomfortable for some to see the flag there. If I can take a look from the other side for a second, I would say that this tradition is an old one. One from an era when “one nation under God” was believed by saints and politicians alike (or at least more commonly). This nation was found by men who believed in “we the people” and not you the people and us the government. And as the majority of those men were christians, the flag would have represented something different then. A christian nation, unique in the world’s dynamics. Now 200 years later, even as a child I looked upon the flag with pride that “we the people” were united, government and citizens alike believing that we were “one nation under God”. So, seeing the flag in church back then was a positive thing to me, reinforcing this united belief. I know now that this belief that we were founded on is crumbling in Washington and for most, sadly, there now would be no place for the flag alongside the christian flag.

    • David,
      Thank you for the comment. Our founding fathers were much more diverse in faith than many realize. They set out to create a nation with religious freedom for all, not a Christian nation. It so happened at the time the majority was Christian. So “we the people” reflected a heavy Christian influence.

      Today we are a much diverse nation. “We the people” includes a great number of different faiths. This new mix creates a new national faith environment.

      The church should be a prophetic voice in this country. Encouraging when the nation does something right and be the critical voice when things are wrong. I see the flag on the pulpit as a symbol of a marriage between nation and church. This marriage between the holy and unholy is a problem. The church is a distinct, separate entity. To maintain its prophetic voice, it must separate itself in reality and in perception.

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