Patriotism and the Cross

On numerous occasions, I have written and spoken about Jesus’ Kingdom of God movement in tension with the Empire of Nation State. The cross, not the flag, should be at the center of Christian worship. The earliest Christian creed, Jesus is Lord, had lethal ramifications for those who accepted Jesus’ call to follow in the way of the cross. They refused to acknowledge Caesar as Lord. Yet so many in the church today have subjugated Christian faith to the gods of nationalistic allegiance. It befuddles me to see churches fly the Christian flag under the American flag. What does this say about Jesus’ ultimate authority and our ultimate allegiance to him?

Mike Jordan Laskey, director of Life and Justice Ministries for the Catholic dioceses of Camden, New Jersey speaks about our contested loyalties: “Because Christians belong to a community that transcends national boundaries and politics, they should be wary of churches that hold nationalistic celebrations or sing patriotic songs and of church leaders who cozy up to political figures. American flags don’t belong in church sanctuaries, where the focus should be on the crucified Christ, whom Christians worship and follow.”

I respect the veterans who have given so much for the freedoms that many of us enjoy in this country. In light of the NFL “taking a knee” controversy, I understand how some have been angered by the gesture, assuming it is a sign of disrespect toward veterans. I was appreciative that no NFL player took a knee during Veteran’s Day weekend, because of this perception. But I also understand why some of my friends have chosen to take a knee for causes they perceive as just. Colin Kaepernick, the first NFL player to take a knee during the national anthem, said his action was motivated by his Christian faith, and his concern was for social justice in the black community. There is not justice for some until there is justice for all. Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you do to me, and whatever you fail to do for the least of these you fail to do to me.”

As followers of Jesus we can have only one ultimate allegiance. Jesus is Lord!

Recent Comments

Thank you for this.  I agree 100%.  You said in a few words what I totally believe. You quoted one of my favorite Bible verses and one I try to live up to.  We have to remember that Jesus died for all and those who call themselves Christian must remember that when he said, “As I have loved you, love one another”,  He didn’t make any exceptions.

Pastor Mike, I could not agree more. As a veteran, I fully support the right of dissent that I fought to protect. As a Christian, I am troubled by “patriotism” in church. Why? How does an immigrant or or foreign visitor feel when the aura around a service is about earthly nation instead of the kingdom of God? I don’t think any national flags should be displayed in any church. It is not the proper place. God is the God of all the earth and everyone in it. Tying God to nationality is shortsighted and counterproductive to the Good News. Thank you for your leadership!

Mike, this has been one of the things I have struggled with my entire life, not just during my ministry.  I have stated several times how the flags are in the wrong place both on the pole and in our sanctuaries.  If we are going to place both flags in our sanctuaries, the place of honor (to the speakers right) should be the Christian flag and not the American flag.  I have been warned many times about moving them, which shows how much nationalism has over taken our churches.  Peace and thank you for your words.

my church is in the shadow of Rome.  pray for me

One of the reasons I was fired by a UMC as its worship director was that I would not put patriotic songs in the worship service. Thank you for bringing light to such a troubling issue.

As much as I would like to remove the American flag from our church sanctuary, that is not an option. After being lectured numerous times about the “proper” or “legally required” positioning of the American flag in relation to the lectern and other flags, I suggested that we just put the Christian flag in a closet. We still have a cross above the chancel to remind people why we have assembled. If a Christian flag’s only purpose is to be subordinate to Old Glory, I say put it away. No one has complained in the three years since the change.

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