I once visited a church that had American flags in three different spaces:
- decorating the entrance walkway to the building
- adorning the lobby and pamphlet rack
- on both sides of the lectern or pulpit
Whew! I get that many people view church buildings as simple extensions of community/civic life, but it was hard to focus on anything purely Christian that morning.
There are new things under the sun, it appears. I had not previously experienced anything like what happened with another church we visited. They recited three successive pledges as their Sunday assembly began:
- A pledge to the flag of the U.S.A.
- A pledge to a “Christian flag” (which is apparently a far more common thing¹ than I knew)
- A pledge to the Bible
Whoa! The middle element of that whammy was actually a nice bit that could mildly encourage any starving, disenchanted believer, but sandwiching Jesus between the other two is something between naïve and blasphemous.
This one might simply have struck me on the wrong day, but it made the first and second whammies seem mild. A church we visited near a national holiday performed three acts in succession to begin their assembly:
- Recognized all the military veterans in the group (like a good social club or town group)
- Sang “God Bless America” (like the now-ubiquitous event at professional baseball games)
- Recited the “Pledge of Allegiance” to the American flag (like most citizens of the country when in secular situations)
Wham – wham – wham! That succession had a kind of crescendo effect, as though we were moving from (1) shallowly inappropriate to (2) thoughtlessly Christian-Right to (3) perilously idolatrous.
¹ If I’d ever really known that there is a Christian flag, I’d forgotten it. This page gives some details. Although the Christian flag tends to be seen in tandem with the American one, the existence of the Christian one may betray a shallow theology that assumes Christian adherents constitute an alternate political force to be reckoned with.