Sunday, July 7, 2013

Church Flag Flying

Yes Banner by paynehollow
Yes Banner, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.
A recent post over at 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.

Thoughts?

17 comments:

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

It actually began after American involvement in WWI.

I remember the issue being discussed when I was in seminary, thinking, "This is a big deal?" Fly it, don't fly it - there are good reasons for both positions and no reason at all to get upset one way or another.

Marshall Art said...

I don't see how it is "irrational" for those who feel theirs is a "nation under God" to have an American flag in the sanctuary. I don't see as rational the notion that anyone would necessarily regard a flag as an idol to be worshiped or in any way problematic. Do anabaptists struggle often with such things? I know why I go to church and Who it is I worship once there. Is this in question for you?

This is really a non-issue and I have no problem with it either way. It's a simple gesture to have a flag, but I don't need one to give thanks to God for His blessings upon my country or to ask Him to continue doing so, or forgive it for transgressions.

Dan Trabue said...

You miss my point, Marshall. You have no problem with it, either way, that's fine and rational.

My question, though, was WHY would some people have a problem with NOT flying the flag? I understand the argument against flying flags, but I don't see much in the way of compelling argument to suggest that NOT flying a flag is somehow wrong.

Do you have any thoughts as to why some might consider it wrong NOT to fly a flag?

Bubba said...

Dan, why not ask "the fella" who actually said he wouldn't attend a church that didn't fly his nation's flag?

You're asking Marshall to speculate about people he may not know, to theorize about the possible rationale for a position he evidently doesn't hold.

Dan Trabue said...

I DID ask him and the others there who hinted at the same thing.

Their response?

The typical strawman response...

"What? You want to say if it's not in the bible then it's wrong??!! Har har har! what a moron! That's really stoopid!"

That is, rather than responding to the reasonable questions asked, they respond with logical fallacies, personal attacks and nonsensical blather. As is too often the case at least on these internets.

Bubba said...

I'm guessing their strawman responses are qualitatively quite different from your recent efforts to discredit John Barron and Glenn Chatfield by attributing to them lunatic beliefs that their actual writing doesn't support.

I'm having to guess because, for the second time in as many blog entries, you're railing about people's supposedly irrational beliefs without initially linking to the conservation in question.

"I DID ask him and the others there who hinted at the same thing."

"There"? Where? You don't say, and so we must trust that your description of their positions is fair and accurate, knowing that you accuse people of "gossip" when they write about you elsewhere.

But, okay, you asked them, and you're not satisfied with their answers.

Why go about asking other people about these fellas' beliefs? Why do so when Marshall may not know them, isn't a party to the conversation, and evidently doesn't hold the same position?

What's the point?

When it became clear that you weren't interested in complete candor about your theological beliefs, I resigned myself to the fact that your beliefs are unknowable to a significant degree. It never occurred to me to ask random people what Dan Trabue believes. Why would it? Their speculations would never serve as an adequate substitute for your own explanations.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

"There"? Where? You don't say, and so we must trust that your description of their positions is fair and accurate, knowing that you accuse people of "gossip" when they write about you elsewhere.


I refer you to the VERY FIRST SENTENCE of this post, in which I link to the blog in question.

In the recent past, I have not listed the blogs in question because the reports were accurate and the people involved didn't matter, it was the TOPIC I was discussing, not the people. Thus, TO AVOID gossip, I treated JUST the topic. But since you all complained, I have included the source this time.

As to your off topic comments about John and Glenn, their comments STRONGLY implied what I summarized. But to be sure, I REPEATEDLy asked them for clarification and repeatedly they, like you, chose to ignore direct questions and live on with innuendo and vague demonizations and unsupported accusations.

If you all would simply directly answer the questions being asked of you, you could resolve this quite easily, as often as not.

Anyway, failing to get any answers to that question there, I asked it here to see if anyone

1. Believes that it's wrong to NOT fly a flag and

2. Would answer why they think it's wrong

If you don't believe it's wrong, then this is not directed to you.

So, perhaps this is not a problem. Do you agree with me, Bubba, that it's pretty silly to actively think it's WRONG to not fly a flag in church, should anyone believe such a thing? Fine, then we're in agreement.

Move on.

Bubba said...

I thought you were referencing another conversation because I don't see anyone there claiming "he wouldn't attend a church that didn't fly a flag in its sanctuary."

There you write, "What I don’t get is the whole, '…but I wouldn’t want to go to a church that didn’t…'," but you don't seem to be quoting anyone else in the thread.

The closest you get is Dean Allen's comment, "Frankly, I would not want to attend any church that had a problem with the US flag."

But, from what I've read in that thread, I don't think one can assume that the man believes that EVERY sanctuary that doesn't have an American flag "has a problem" with the flag. Assuming he thinks that is unjustified and uncharitable.

Before, John Barron pointed to things like groupthink, and you ignored all that to insist that he believes in some vast global conspiracy. Here, you're putting the worst possible spin on an opponent's stated position.

"In the recent past, I have not listed the blogs in question because the reports were accurate and the people involved didn't matter, it was the TOPIC I was discussing, not the people."

1. Even if you had a good record of summarizing others' views -- and you don't -- it's arrogant to proclaim that your reports are so accurate that, as a rule, your readers don't need to be given easy access to see for themselves.

2. When, as you did in the last conversation, you invoke tinfoil hats, it's outrageous to insist that you're focusing on topics rather than people.

Even here, in questioning the rationality and the morality of the other people's positions, it's hard not to conclude that you're also not calling into question the rationality and morality of the people themselves.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

There you write, "What I don’t get is the whole, '…but I wouldn’t want to go to a church that didn’t…'," but you don't seem to be quoting anyone else in the thread.

The closest you get is Dean Allen's comment, "Frankly, I would not want to attend any church that had a problem with the US flag."


My apologies for misquoting the fella, I was working from memory.

However, given that the POINT of the post was "Is it good to fly a flag in church - yes or no?" and then to be met with "I wouldn't attend a church that had a problem with the US flag..." I hope you can see that this could at least reasonably implied.

Again, though, IF you all would answer direct questions directly, then a lot of these sorts of potential disagreements could be cleared up. If Dean would have answered, "I am not saying I think it's wrong to not fly a flag, but I do have a problem with people who actively dislike the US flag..." then that would have cleared it up. Conversely, if he MEANT, "if you don't fly the flag, then you have a problem with it and I have a problem with that...," then my follow up questions would stand - On what basis do you think it's wrong to not fly a flag? - and answering that could help lead to some clarity.

You and your comrades seem to often ignore direct answers to reasonable questions and that is part of the problem here, but that is an aside.

Can you demonstrate a bit of rationality now and agree that, reading what I actually wrote there and then concluding, "So, you're saying if it's not in the Bible it's wrong and that's STOOPID!" is a ridiculous conclusion?

Bubba...

Even if you had a good record of summarizing others' views -- and you don't...

Do you recognize the irony of this? Do you realize that, at a guess, fully 75% of the conclusions your "side" make about my words are wrong? And that additionally, I tend to say things like "It sounds like you're saying... is that what you mean?" whereas they/you all tend to say, "Huh! You're saying X and that's STOOPID!"

Perhaps the pot should not refer to the kettle as black...?

Bubba said...

Dan, you're repeatedly attributing to "our side" the word "stoopid" -- three times in this thread, twice in your last comment alone -- and I don't use that word, and I don't find it being used in the comment thread to which you link.

"...I tend to say things like 'It sounds like you're saying... is that what you mean?' whereas they/you all tend to say, 'Huh! You're saying X and that's STOOPID!'"

Even now, when you're trying to demonstrate how cautious you are not to misquote people, you do not summarize our comments in a way that could be considered accurate and charitable.

It's a minor thing, a single (misspelled) word, but you shouldn't use it if you're really concerned about accuracy -- and you shouldn't need to misquote us if we were so awful in our misuse of words.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

On point, Dan, had I encountered such a person saying such a thing, I probably would have shrugged and said, "OK".

That's what adiaphora are all about. Couldn't care less. The guy wants to get "het up" about it, well, that's fine. Why should I let my panties get in a bunch because of some guy's hang-up? Just smile and carry on.

Dan Trabue said...

Not upset, Geoffrey, just engaging in conversation for the fun of it. Or trying to.

Alan said...

"You're asking Marshall to speculate about people he may not know, to theorize about the possible rationale for a position he evidently doesn't hold."

ROFL.

Bubba writes that sentence almost as if speculating about people he doesn't know isn't one of his and (and MA's) all-time favorite hobbies!

Oh, the irony.

Bubba said...

You know, Alan, if you're mocking me for drawing conclusions from what others write, perhaps you shouldn't simultaneously mock me BY drawing conclusions from what I write.

Irony, indeed.

Marshall Art said...

Except by some here, there really is no difficulty in determining when I do or do not "speculate" about people I don't know. Generally, I will indicate by saying something along the lines of, "correct me if I'm wrong", or "don't quote me here", or "I'm speculating".

Anyhow, I've never run into anyone who felt it was wrong NOT to fly the US flag in the sanctuary. Thus, I would have to speculate as to why such a person might feel that way. But I don't want to.

Alan said...

Bubba doesn't, apparently, know the difference between drawing conclusions from what someone writes and speculating about possible rationale for a position he doesn't hold.

Typical.

I don't have to speculate about anything to see the hypocrisy ... its written in every line he writes.

Alan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.