Douglas Wilson has written a funny, witty, novel about what happens when a prankster rearranges the flags outside of a small Bible college in the rural South so that the Christian flag flies above the United States Flag. Chaos and hilarity ensues. Standard Disclaimer. I don’t agree with Wilson about half the things he says. And he probably doesn’t agree with me with the other half. That said, I highly recommend the novel especially if you like the sort of P.G. Wodehouse comedy of manners.
It is a provocative image, the Christian flag flying above the American Flag. A provocative image but not a crime as some might think. The U.S. Code and the courts have consistently interpreted flag etiquette as just that. Etiquette. When churches like the Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, North Carolina, flew the Christian flag above the American flag in protest of the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, they may have offended a lot of people but they didn’t break any laws.
And why does the idea of the Christian flag flying above the American flag gall us so much? I mean ultimately we believe that Jesus is the King of the World. So why should it bother us? Because we are Americans and Christians. Many brave men and women fought and died for that flag–the stars and stripes. We should treat that with respect. However, it isn’t disrespectful to give priority to Jesus. In fact, it’s commanded.
The other flag, the Christian one, has a neat little history. It was conceived in 1897 at an impromptu speech by Charles Overton at a church in Brooklyn New York. On Coney Island, no less! When the expected speaker for Sunday School didn’t show, Overton asked some students what a Christian flag might look like. As the 1909 Christian Standard put it:
Within recent years (1897) a flag has been designed which shall stand as an emblem; which all Christian nations and various denominations may rally in allegiance and devotion.
Allegiance and Devotion. To Christ. Doesn’t this imply a priority? That is should the image of the Christian flag flying above the American flag in front of a church or a Bible college gall us so? Sure, it wouldn’t be appropriate necessarily in other places. We say one nation under God not one nation under Christ because that particular pledge was an attempt to be not only ecumenical but pluralistic. However, is what Elizabeth Town Baptist did all that bad even if it wasn’t a protest?
Jesus said, “All authority under heaven and upon the earth is given to me.” (Matthew 28:18). Those words should be a challenge to every nation on earth. It should gall a whole lot more people, especially politicians, than it does. They should be questioning us about it. It is a strong statement.
Pledging allegiance to Jesus under his banner does not mean we cannot be good citizens. I can pledge allegiance to the American flag as well. Jehovah’s Witnesses are mistaken that the two are mutually exclusive. America has been blessed by God as a haven of liberty in a way which makes it exceptional. And that tree of liberty has been watered from time to time. But my first allegiance is the the savior for which the Christian flag stands. We are aliens and strangers from another land, another kingdom that is not of this world. We said it in Vacation Bible School every day of that week. “I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands. One brotherhood uniting all Christians in service and in love.”
I’m just saying maybe we should take another look at what it means to pledge allegiance to that other flag.Ω
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