Reformed Grits

Keep your state outta my church
July 4, 2008, 10:33 am
Filed under: Faith

I hope you all are having a wonderful 4th.  I just wanted to post something for discussion.  Let me preface this by saying I’d really love to hear your views on this.  This isn’t a flame session and I reserve the right to turn comments off if kind and intelligent discussion gets, well, unkind and or unintelligent.  That’s right.  If I don’t like your exercise of free speech on my blog I’ll cut you off.  This blog is not a democracy– it’s a dictatorship. 
Ok, now I’m just trying to be funny. 
But seriously, I’d love your thoughts on this…

My understanding of our Constitution is that there is no place that mentions the phrase “separation of church and state” but that the actual line to which this phrase is attributed is “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”  In actuality, there are lots and lots of instances where federal documents, buildings, etc. reference “God.”  If you were to read the views of our founding fathers you’d know this is the “Christian” God– not the “Moh*****” one or the “Bud***” one or any other.  Granted, many were deists, we’ve all heard this, and I’d be a fool to tell you that they were all indeed Christians. 
My point is, that the first amendment in my understanding was more written to keep the state out of the church; not the “church”–or God– out of the state (if I were going to adopt that phrase, which I don’t think is really accurate.)

Ok, now thinking forward to current day.  At any given church across this fine country, the Sunday before July 4th you will see meeting halls and sanctuarys decked out in red, white, and blue– flags of our country.  Sunday morning we’ll sing “God Bless America” and “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.”  We’ll shed a tear and get chillbumps as we sing these songs, talk about our country and those who sacrificed to give us the freedom to worship as we please.  We’ll say the pledge of allegiance and walk away talking about how great church was that day. 

Am I the only one who this bothers?  What is church?  Aren’t we there to worship God?  Some will argue that these songs invoke His blessing on our country or that they speak of God’s goodness to us.  Well, ok, but consider:

America, America
God shed His grace on thee!
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

To whom is this song written?  Sounds to me as if it’s talking to America.  It mentions the name of God, and in truth He has shed His grace on us despite the fact that our country has turned it’s back on Him.  But honestly, I’m unconvinced this song has any place in a worship service. 
A patriotic service not conducted in a place of worship?  Sure!  I’ll sing just as loud as you, but keep your “state” out of my church. 
This is my personal feeling and conviction; I’m not throwing down my church bulletin in favor of seeking out a Quaker church somewhere but to me seeing an American flag in the front of a church sanctuary makes me wonder if it’s been completely thought out or if there is something I’m missing.  If there is, I’d love to know! 

I’ve had some tell me that we have flags in the sanctuary to show that we are under authority.  Hm.  I’m wondering if the new testament time churches had Roman flags in their meeting rooms?  Just a thought.  Like I said, this is not some fit I’m throwing in anger and frustration.   I really just mean it to be food for thought.   I’m so screwed up in so many ways; I make bad decisions every day and am not intentional in every area of my life as I should be.  But if we are to be intentional in anything, shouldn’t it be in our worship of a holy and jealous God? 

I really do seek your thoughts.  I’d love it if someone would give me some thoughts and change my mind about this.  It’d be very liberating! 

7 Comments so far
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Your concerns are valid and there is nothing for you to apologize for. No, the early Christians did not hang Roman banners in their house churches or in the catacombs where they met. It was only after the political beast/dragon of the Roman empire infiltrated the church, and the bride of Christ turned into a harlot, that it became acceptable for the two to be found together. Eventually, the two became a team, and you can see the results in history and in Revelation 17. What you see in some of the churches these days during Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Veterans Day, and now even for 9/11 anniversaries, is something that borders on a national religion. America is not a Christian nation. Nations cannot be Christians. Only individuals can be Christians. Linking church worship to civic, political and militarist exercises, tends to only corrupt the bride of Christ.

Comment by Good

America the Beautiful is not stating that God has blessed, but rather is a prayer for blessing. And I think it is an appropriate prayer for a worship service.

Comment by Bill

Just a friendly thought…ask one of our WW2 vets if he thinks our flag should be taken out of the church and see what happens. The flag and anything patriotic are being taken out of so many places that it would be sad to take it out of the church. What message would that send to the non-christians or anti-Americans? We say, “One nation, under God” not “One God, under this nation”. We honor our God for what He has done for this country. Maybe it isn’t the flag but an attitude of the heart. I have never seen the flag honored over God in a service…quite the contrary. We honor and thank God for this country.

I personally have no problem with the flag in the sanctuary. Maybe I should. I don’t know. I know in my heart I won’t give the flag more honor over God. Never.

If the flag should ever leave the sanctuary we need to also take out the plants. I wouldn’t want anyone to think we honor ‘Mother Earth’ over God. Yes, You can argue that He made the plants and there is no ‘Mother Earth’. BUT He also established (made) this nation.

Anyway…this was my two cents for whatever they are worth. 😉

Comment by caroline

I think that the American flag as well as the “Christian” flag have no place in our worship, therefore, keep them out. Sorry to the Vet who bravely served our country, but we can’t please everyone. We should only seek to please the Lord with our worship.

The preacher should be preaching Christ crucified, not politics. You won’t see Newt Gingrich rallying the fine Republican church goers in our pulpit on the Lord’s Day. And our pastor, my husband, will not EVER tell anyone from the pulpit how to vote. In fact, he and I aren’t really that interested in party politics. We are much more interested in ecclesiastical matters.

The bible teaches that God rules through 2 kingdoms, kingdom of man and the kingdom of God. Church authorities have no rule over the state and the state authorities have no rule over the church. This is a good thing!!! God is very specific in telling us how we, as the church (the kingdom of God), are to govern our churches. To say that the presence of an American flag is showing that we are under authority to the state and government violates this principle.

Just my 2 cents.

Comment by Marmee

I feel the need to clarify something for those that know me personally. I am NOT the other side of this debate/issue/discussion. I honestly could care less if the flag was taken out or left in. I am a non-confrontational type person and wouldn’t care either way. THIS issue is not important enough to me. I can worship either way. If the elders decided to put a little idol of some sort up on the communion table…THEN….my feathers would be ruffled. 😉

The above comment by me was written quickly and without prayer. I hope I didn’t offend anyone.

Comment by caroline

Caroline—not only did you not offend me, I completely agree with you!! Kim, I can see what you’re saying, but I just happen to think it’s great that we sing patriotic songs in church. We often sing the Star Spangled Banner at home and my kids love it. We should install patriotism whenever possible since it is quickly diminishing from society. Perhaps it will be these young Christian men and women who will be called up to defend our great Nation in the future and their love for God and Country will sustain them. A love that grew from singing songs at home, school, and church! Also, when I sing “America, America” etc, I truly am worshipping God. In my heart I am thanking Him for the amazing blessing of being born in America and I know it is only by pure Grace that He has sustained this country so far….goodness knows we don’t deserve it! Any of us! So, FLY THE FLAG, SING THE SONGS, MAY GOD BE GLORIFIED IN ALL WE DO, even when we celebrate the birth of our country!
Oh, and not to be too controversial, but as Christians we should be interested in party politics and we should be involved!! It is more of a Christian duty than a patriotic duty. Of course, I went to Liberty University and Dr. Falwell was all about politics! And I truly believe God used Dr. Falwell’s politics to do our country much good!

Comment by penny

I completely agree with Caroline and Penny’s comments!

Comment by Andrea

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