Dear Brothers and Sisters, I write this not to attack or to upset you, rather to enlighten you of a sin you may not know you have commited. Nationalism is a view that one’s self, or nation is better than another and this is very dangerous. Please read this with an open mind and heart.
The definition of “citizen” as taken from Merriam Webster as “an inhabitant of a city or town
especially: one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman.” Picture this, it is Sunday morning, and you are walking into a traditional Southern Baptist church. What are a few things you see? Rows of pews, hymnals, a table for the Lord’s Supper, a Christian flag, and an American flag. In the spirit of Sesame Street, “one of these things is not like the other.” Time and time again I have found this to be the case, especially during VBS. It is not uncommon during VBS, or other Bible studies for kids to pledge allegiance to the flag alongside the Bible. My problem is not with the American flag; rather, it is with what it represents. The American flag is a sign to the world around you that you are American. What’s so wrong with that? The fact that you aren’t. Philippians 3:20-21, “20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” What is being stated in this passage of Scripture is quite clear: if you are a Christian, you are a citizen of heaven. As Christians, we should be distinct from the world. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” My problem with churches that fly the American flag is that they are saying we are Christians and Americans. You are Christians. That’s it. When you are in the family of God you should desire that people know you are a citizen of Calvary, not the U.S.A. America is a nation of idols (anything you worship above God), and the prized idol of the U.S.A is the flag. If not for the reason of idols, let’s look at how it impacts the community around you. Let’s say you have an American flag outside of your church, what is that display to the world? We are Americans, what is that seen as? I asked Rafael Salazar a citizen of Brazil, a member of the Augustinian Honors Collegium, and a Senior at Boyce College (the college at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary -SBTS ). Salazar said this, “ When I see it up there the first thing I think is their identity is two-fold, to Christianity, but also to national identity. (America). A church should embrace the sojourner and stranger, but has a strong love for their nation, as long as the emphasis is not differences of nations and cultures but the similarities in our common Christian heritage.” When asked if a church should have one he said, “No.”
Davidson Flynn Evens, a member of the Augustinian Honors Collegium, and Seminary student at both Boyce College and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said this on the subject, “You do not mix civil religion and faith.”
In Matthew 6:24 we read, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” The heart principle of this verse is you cannot have two allegiances, you are either one or the other. You are a Christian or an American (in practice). Anugrah Poklher a member of Global Mission Church in North Carolina, who is in his 5th year at college, and a native of Nepal said in a phone interview, “Christianity is not American, we are made a new nation through Christ. By having an American flag you are saying that the Gospel is American, or at least Western in nature. We need not forget that most Christians throughout our history were not Americans. Nationalism can harm God’s work and if you are finding your identity in America and not God, you are sinning. When you get to heaven you will not be an American; for you are a Child of God.”
This post is not intended to cause any anger or shame for churches or church members who believe opposite to this. My only hope is that through this article you think more critically and think in-depth about what your church does and how it points to the Kingdom.