Juicy Ecumenism revisited an article from last year's July Christianity Today magazine, in which three folk debated about whether flying a flag in your church is a good or bad idea.
The fella doing the "agin it" position noted the problems of associating your church with one particular nation, the problems of being unnecessarily divisive rather than inclusive, the problem of overtly or passively suggesting you are beholden to the state, of tying your religion to your state. Serious concerns, all.
I would add to that just the question of "Why?" Why would/should we fly a flag in our church service? Is this true of all nations or just the US? Should Chinese Christians meeting in secret for fear of prison fly a Chinese flag in their service? Did the early Christians fly a flag of Rome after Rome killed off Jesus??
What is the rationale for even considering doing this?
The two people in favor of flying the flag in churches suggest it as a way of honoring country and to encourage a good sort of patriotism. They also suggested a flag (again, any flag? just the US flag??) is a way of remembering that "greater love hath no one than to lay his life down for another..."
One of the commenters on the Juicy blog said that he would not go to a church that didn't fly a flag in their sanctuary. I just wonder, "Why?"
I also would point out that this sort of dogmatic belief is a very good reason to be wary of this sort of tradition.
To my understanding, having a flag in sanctuaries is a very new phenomena, beginning perhaps during the Civil War (when I believe BOTH sides flew their own flags and when an area was subdued by the North, I've read, they would sometimes replace the Confederate flag in a church building with a Union flag.) It certainly is not biblical nor an ancient tradition, not that I'm aware of (again, can you imagine the early church flying the flag of Rome?? How ludicrous!)
Perhaps not surprising, given my anabaptist background (anabaptists, by and large, do not have flags in their church services, nor do they pledge allegiance to a flag elsewhere), I understand the NOT flying a flag in church position. It seems to me to be the rational and moral position to hold to.
Given the, I think, serious reasons not to fly a flag, on what basis would we choose to do so? It's not biblical, it's not rational that I can see (ie, "Christians should rationally have their state's flag in their church because..." what? I can think of no rational defense for it) and it's questionably moral.
Having said that, I don't condemn my brothers and sisters in churches that have a flag. I grew up with it and know how culturally tied we are to the idea and it's really not like it's evil or anything to do it. I just can't think of any positive reason to do it.
Does anyone care to give it a try?
Another related question:
I would point back to the fella who said he wouldn't attend a church that didn't fly a flag in its sanctuary. I can understand that, perhaps for some reason - cultural, modern traditional, whatever - that people like the idea of it. But to say you wouldn't attend a church that doesn't fly one, that seems to me to suggest that you think it's wrong NOT to fly a flag. If there are people out there like that, I would ask, "On what basis would you think that?"
It's one thing to have it as a preference, but to actively think it's wrong NOT to fly a flag in your church sanctuary? That just defies reason, to me.