My purpose here is threefold: 1) To illustrate the ever growing and encompassing nature of the current flag of the United States. 2) To observe the inconsistency of the comparison of the current flag of the United States with the battle banner of the former Confederacy. 3) To observe that for the Christian there is a symbol above all symbols and one day all national symbols will come to an end.
A Broad Spectrum
Amidst the rhythmic drums and shrill male voices and haunting harmony harking back to war cries and the metered shuffling of proud warriors, the stars and stripes whips in the wind next to the eagle staff as veterans enter the dance arbor. This is a scene very prominent and unforgettable to anyone who has ever attended a western Pow Wow on a Reservation. For many, the sight of the official flag of the United States carried with honor by descendants of a formerly oppressed people may seem odd, but it is something these warriors take very seriously. This same flag was not officially theirs until 1924 when Native Americans were finally considered citizens of the United States. The predecessor of this flag was carried by the same Calvary that hunted down many of their ancestors on the plains. In one of the saddest and darkest moments of these days, soldiers ignored this flag outside Chief Black Kettle’s tipi at Sand Creek and attacked old men, women, and children, slaughtering 164 of them.
So why is it appropriate for tribes to honor this flag? The answers are as varied as 500 nations, but the short of it is: this is their country too. They have served this country too. They have fought and defended this flag too. Once oppressed? Yes. Still mistreated and overlooked in regard to official treaty agreements? Yes. Still dealing with a sluggish and sometimes inept Indian Health Services? Yes. Ready to serve, fight, and defend? Yes.
A Defined Difference
This scenario alone should help us understand why the U.S. flag is different than the Confederate Battle flag. Many have objected that the oppressions and sins of our fathers committed under old glory are the same as those committed under the battle flag. But, leveling the same accusations against the current flag of the United States as opposed to the flags of the former Confederacy fall flat for the simple demonstration above. The sun has set on the Confederacy and the lion’s share of judgment has been rendered. As the Star Spangled Banner still waves, there is still time to repent, there is still time to apologize, there is still time to include.
The Stars and Stripes is the flag of soldiers, sailors and marines, of the descendants of immigrants looking for a better life, slaves packed on to a merchant vessels, and indigenous peoples deprived of land, natural resources and culture. It is the flag of the Boy Scout who raises it at the football game, the new citizen who just passed her exam, the marcher for civil rights, and all who reside in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Here is a simple test. Ask many African American brothers and sisters, “Are you in some way hurt or offended by the display of the Confederate Battle Flag?” Then follow up the question with, “are you in the same way offended by the display of the U.S. flag?” The answers here help dictate our scriptural conscience of action (1 Corinthians 10:31 – 33).
An Inevitable Conclusion
Is the willingness for Christians to put aside the Confederate battle flag a slippery slope to the laying aside of the flag of the United States? In the short term, no, but in the long term, yes. But we must understand why. Where many see a slippery slope I see a direct path to a hill called Mount Calvary where the Cross of Christ is above all earthly allegiance. We must understand that we are primarily citizens of the New Jerusalem and not the places where we currently dwell in order to be the best citizens of the cities we find ourselves.
Consider this example. I know many missionaries who love the flag of the United States, who are largely patriotic and even teary eyed when they see it as well as comforted by its presence at the local embassy, because to them it says “home.” Yet, they do not fly the flag on the mission field. They are not waving it to draw crowds. It is not part of a Gospel presentation. They are not hoping to see people converted to America, they are hoping to see people converted to Christ. In some of these countries and cultures, could they be in danger or setting up a stumbling block to wave the American banner? Yes and maybe. The reason this matters is a question of allegiance. Though we put our hands over our hearts to salute the flag of our nation we must be sure that our redeemed hearts direct our hands as we work for the Kingdom of all nations, tribes, and tongues.
It is easy for us to imagine the flags of the Third Reich and ISIS being thrown in to the Lake of Fire. But can you imagine the flags of the country you love the most under the feet of the Lamb? That’s where the “slippery slope” is headed. If we are not okay with that as followers of Jesus Christ, then we are guilty of idolatry masquerading as patriotism. If you cannot imagine a Heaven without “Stars and Stripes Forever” then you cannot imagine Heaven.
There will come a day when we will surrender the flag of the United States. That day has not yet come. Yet we must still ask, “will we be willing?”