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!