Should Churches Fly the U.S. Flag?

May 10, 2005 by

American FlagShould churches in the U.S. fly the American flag, and if they do, what position should it have in relation to other Christian symbols? It’s an interesting debate and sums up how the smallest decisions say a lot about your church’s identity.

“By God’s grace we live in freedom in a wonderful country. We don’t want to ignore the blessing and benefits of being located in a country where we experience such freedoms,” said the Rev. M. Susan Peterson [of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn. (coincidentally, only a few blocks from my church)]. “However, we gather in the sanctuary to worship Jesus Christ. And as a result, our focus and all of our symbols in the church reflect the one to whom we give honor and praise.”

Of course others disagree:

“If we do not display the flag or indulge ourselves in the freedoms that flag stands for, then what’s our faith really worth?” said Rev. John Darlington [of Minnehaha United Methodist Church in Minneapolis]. “We go by James [2:14]: ‘Faith without works is dead.'”
(link via CT’s weblog)

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Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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28 Responses to “Should Churches Fly the U.S. Flag?”

  • Dana O
    May 10, 2005

    The church I go to (Resurrection Life Church, in Grandville, MI) has a number of flags in the snactuary — along the back wall. They range from countries in Africa, to some European and South American countries. Those are angled along the back sides (the sanctuary forms a hexagon). Along the very back are the American and Christian flags.
    This works for our church because part of our mission statement includes reaching out to all nations of the world.

  • Big Mike Lewis
    May 10, 2005

    Posting the US Flag makes a church’s modern Americanized-ness very visible. I think it tells people of other nationalities they are not welcome.
    Not what God intended.

    • Allie
      October 26, 2010

      This is America!! Displaying OUR American Flag shows pride in our Country.
      The Melting Pot of the World. The American Flag stands for Freedom!
      Whether in a Church or in my yard, the American Flag should be able to be displayed ANYWHERE IN AMERICA!!!!
      These Freedoms allow you the ability to have your own opinion, make ignorant remarks and not be punished or crucified for it.
      By the way, Most Christians are very patriotic, vote & are educated.

      • Joe Fincham
        May 27, 2014

        The church doesn’t exist to show our nationalism. The church was not founded to display the idea that one flag constitutes Christianity. And when my country decides to turn 360* away from my Christianity, are you still gonna stand and sing My Country tis of Thee? When the country takes your religious freedom away, what happened to your flag that ‘stood for freedom’? It’s good to be an American, a patriot and supporter of the country. Christians should pray for leaders and our country..yet not so blindly that we forget what Samuel Johnson said once upon a time…..’patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel’. You would think we’ve noticed that saying coming to fruition too often for Americans to wrap themselves so tightly in the flag, that we won’t be able to stand against it once it takes it’s stand against Christianity.

  • Crystal Renaud
    May 11, 2005

    Flying the American Flag in church yards is something that I think every protestant church should do. We live in this country of freedom and it because of that freedom we are allowed to worship God openly and freely.
    We should be proud. Let her wave.

  • Anne Jackson
    May 11, 2005

    But people from other nationalities are in America. I don’t believe the flag would turn someone away. If I were in Africa and went to a church, I wouldn’t be turned off if they had their flag up.
    But that’s just me.
    I also agree with what Crystal said.

  • blogan
    May 11, 2005

    I don’t like to see the American flag inside the church. I come to worship God, not country.
    I have a question for those who want to honor our country by flying the American flag in church: How should it relate to the Christian flag? According to American flag protocol, the American flag should always be displayed in the “position of superior prominence.” Even over the Christian flag? I don’t think so.

  • Crystal Renaud
    May 11, 2005

    What is the “Christian Flag?”
    Also – wasn’t America was founded by Christians? Were they not the ones who made the ‘flag rules’ also? :-)

  • Anne Jackson
    May 11, 2005

    Not trying to step on your toes, blogan, but what you see in a church (or outside a church – which is where our flag is flown)isn’t necessarilyrepresentative of whom or how your worship, at least I would hope not.
    But of course, the question is how we perceive what church really is.
    My thoughts are, it isn’t a building – with or without flags, but a community of people reaching out into a dying world.
    Nor do I see the character or nature of Christ demanding his flag be flown higher than any other flag. I just don’t see that in his nature. I don’t think God cares about flags. But again, those are just my thoughts.

    • WR Stout
      November 28, 2011

      Have you not read the bible? “Colossians 1:17–18 (NIV)
      He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

  • Crystal Renaud
    May 11, 2005

    Forgive me for now I realize that the “Christian Flag” is. I just didn’t ever have to learn the a pledge when I became a Christian so I didn’t know there was such a thing.

  • kevin
    May 11, 2005

    Ooh, this is a great discussion! Thanks for being civil, everyone.
    Anne, you commented that God doesn’t care about flags, and I’d agree with that. Blogan raises an interesting point about the hierarchy of the flags (which the Star Trib article covered in detail), but it assumes there’s some importance in the Christian flag. The Christian flag is just a man-made construct, a symbol that’s meaning comes from what we invest in it. So it can get kind of dicey. Should the U.S. be above God? No way. Should a cloth flag representing the U.S. be higher than a cloth flag representing the Christian faith? It’s not so clear.
    But back to Anne’s point: the church isn’t a building, it’s a community. Darn right. However, we meet in a building, and that building says a lot about our community. If your building is falling apart from disuse, that makes a loud statement. If your building is a local high school you rent on weekends, that says something about your church (brand new, not enough money for their own building, or maybe focused on something beyond buildings). This gets down to the whole point of my post: whether or not your church displays the U.S. flag says something about your church. Is anyone paying attention to what message that says?

  • Anne Jackson
    May 11, 2005

    I agree with you, Kevin. We do meet in buildings.
    I have some friends in Cali who meet in a nightclub. I was just talking with one of them the other day and he told me the nightclub they meet in almost got shut down by the city because of some illegal-adult things going on there on their typical nights. Where they meet says a ton about who they reach out to, where they are at.
    Back to the flag. Whenever something tragic happens, our flag always goes half-mast and in a way, I think our community views that as we know what is going on in the world, we respect and mourn with them. Whether it’s the Pope or Regan. We are there with our community. We love our country, our freedom, our troops, and we grieve the losses of humanity with the world.
    As Crystal said, so many guests wouldn’t even know what the heck a Christian flag was. I grew up a PK, so I learned my pledge at GA camp.

  • Crystal Renaud
    May 11, 2005

    I definitely agree with Anne’s comment about the flag. It shows a sense of unity. It shows we care. It shows our support.
    So true: it does show something about the church if a flag is or isn’t flying outside of it. However, I don’t think it is a bad thing if a church doesn’t have one nor do I think every church should have one. Flying a flag simply shows respect and pride for the country.

  • srotpar
    May 12, 2005

    I wouldn’t even think of putting the American Flag up in my church!!
    Oh yeah it’s cause I live in Canada.
    I find Americans are far more patriotic and so this is a bit more of an issue for y’all, eh? ;)

  • blogan
    May 12, 2005

    Crystal, heres a link to info on the Christian flag.

    Anne, churches are filled with symbols. Although the symbols are not more important than the worship, I believe they can indicate the values/beliefs of the church leadership. Allowing a secular symbol be placed in a position of superior importance to a religious symbol strikes me as strange behavior for a church.

    Of course, reasonable minds can differ what symbols mean and how to display them. For example, I grew up learning that nothing should be placed on top of the Bible; that would be disrespectful. I’ve since learned that others prefer the Bible to always be at the bottom of a stack, symbolizing being the foundation of everything.

  • Anne Jackson
    May 12, 2005

    To me it shows the church does things by the laws of our nation, which we do have to abide by.

  • Paul Matthew Tilley
    May 13, 2005

    I am English. I lived in the US for a few months and was totally overwhelmed by nationalism of the US. I came across so much pride of being American and people who really believed the US is the greatest nation on Earth; the funny thing is that most of these people had never been outside the US! Don’t get me wrong there is also this arrogance in the UK and really it comes down to pride and pride is sin. I believe that this pride and been at the root of a lot of the ills of both countries. Should we represent the pride of nationalism in our churches? I don’t think so. Having a nation’s flag, especially from courtiers such as the US and UK that have coursed so much ill in the world, makes more issues then it solves. When I went to the US embassy to get a visa I was on US soil, if we are ambassadors of Christ then when a person comes to a church gathering they are then, I believe, on Kingdom soil and our focus should be on that Kingdom not man made ones!

  • Crystal Renaud
    May 13, 2005

    I think you make an excellent point Paul.

  • Vito Mazzara
    May 13, 2005

    Paul does make an excellent point and articulated it well. I agree. I am as patriotic as the next American, however to honor one country over another in a politically non-biased environment such as the church is to put God “under” country rather than country “under” God. For the church to show political bias is like my Pastor teaching that all men should honor and love HIS wife because that is God’s charge to him. Instead the teaching that honors God and speaks to all men is that each man should honor and love the wife God has given them. Great topic. Let’s remember; God doesn’t see political boundries. He just sees those that have recieved his gift of Grace through Jesus Christ, and those we have been called to share that gift with. No matter where in the world they are.

  • Ted Michael Morgan
    June 8, 2008

    My congregation includes a pledge to the flag in morning worship, not an assemby for
    Sunday school or other such function but as part of Sunday morning worship. I take exception to that. The hatred voiced toward me for taking exception echoes the worst of television evangelism. I am about to leave my congregation because of this situation.

  • Charlie
    October 29, 2008

    I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
    In our pledge to this symbol we acknowledge being under God, not over him. We pledge allegiance to it, we don’t worship it. We acknowledge that this symbol is one that flys over our troops that protect the freedoms, religion being one of them, we have living in this nation. Anyone who links its presence to idolatry is really strectching things. This country was founded by men who believed in God and asked for His blessings on all that we did and stood for. Unfortunately, because of the freedoms this nation offers, many immoral things have become acceptable in the name of tolerance. We give in on things because we don’t want to make a big deal out of it. If one is so weak in their faith that they think the presence of a flag takes away from their worship to God then there are other issues there. WWJD should apply here, I personally think he would tell us that there are bigger issues that we should be concentrating on like why there are so many different denominations for his one teaching….

  • Gary Cummings
    February 13, 2009

    Any church which flys any national flag is merely a cultural club and not the Body of Christ.

  • Deborah Colton
    June 6, 2012

    Thank you, Charlie, and others for expressing so eloquently that the very presence of our flag (in or outside a place of worship) and the Pledge of Allegiance have long been symbols that ours is a country “under God”. While Patriotism should never eclipse our worship of the God who has so generously blessed us and continues to bless us each day, the flag is a reminder that, because we live in a broken world, our freedoms have come at a high cost, and should never be taken for granted. The Bible says “greater love has no man but to lay down hs life for a friend.” Many many lives have been laid down so we might worship our Savior freely, and so others around the world might also. It is good to remember our blessings and offer thanksgiving for them. This is what we should be about–bringing the Truth to all the earth, easing suffering, freeing the captive. This is the work of the Church, for it is our action (or inaction) in these areas that says the most about who we are as God’s people– not flags, chalices nor even crosses nor any other man-made symbol–but the renewing of life through Jesus Christ!

  • Brad
    November 28, 2012

    A time of corporate worship is about lifting up unified praise, adoration, confession, etc… to God. This unity exists not simply amidst a few friends, a local church, or a denomination; it exists among all believers everywhere. Although the pledge and the flag have been rightly identified as being “under God,” it makes one wonder how a member of another nation would identify with such tribute.

    Further, I understand that there are many blessings and freedoms that we receive in this country due to the providence of God at the cost of many soldiers’ lives. However, to celebrate and give honor in the worship service for this reason is to worship the freedoms and blessings that we have rather than the God who gave them to us.

    As much as we thank God for the freedoms he has given us, there have been many who have thanked God for the opportunity to be a martyr. Should we then lift up the flags and the governing authorities who allowed this martyrdom?

    I know this is a sensitive conversation especially because I am sure that many of us have family members and friends who have served in the army, and we want to pay them tribute. I just do not believe that the worship service is a place to do this.

  • Brad
    December 7, 2012

    I think it is important to make a distinction between political religious freedom and religious freedom. The first comes from political systems and the second comes from God. If the first were the ultimate ideal up to which we must live, our prayers should reflect that we are asking God to change the situations of those who do not have it. The very believers in Acts 4, when they were under persecution asked not that God would change their situation; instead they asked that God would give them boldness despite their persecution. I think we are wise to follow their lead because only true religious freedom comes from God, and it is the only one we should lift up as an ultimate ideal.

  • Bob Moore
    November 3, 2014

    I am really struggling with this question as a Christian and a pastor. I am an American, and I am very patriotic and grateful for the freedoms that I enjoy as a citizen, including the freedom to worship God publicly. We do a really big Veterans Celebration at our church every year the Sunday before Veteran’s Day (post the colors, sing the National Anthem, 21 gun salute, recognize service branches with their hymns, have a distinguished, former military officer as guest speaker, etc.). However, we talk openly about a very important theological tension in Scripture that must not be ignored. Jesus said that His Kingdom was not of this world. The church is the representation of the Kingdom of God on earth until such time as Christ returns to physically establish his earthly kingdom. Only then will we be able to say, like the seventh angel of Revelations, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15) The USA and every other country on earth are part of the kingdoms of this world. Our founders were mostly Christians, but they did not intend to establish a theological state (theocracy) like the Old Covenant nation of Israel. There are many Christians in our beloved country, but the nation state of the USA is not a part of the Kingdom of God. It is very important, theologically and practically, not to blur those lines. Paul actually spoke of not becoming entangled in “civilian affairs” as a soldier of Christ’s kingdom, at least implying that we must give supremacy to our heavenly citizenship with regards to how we relate to secular society. I think it is perfectly appropriate to recognize and thank our active-duty and veteran military men and women for their service and sacrifice to our nation that makes possible our freedom to worship publicly. We already have an American flag in our worship center opposite the Christian flag, but a sweet couple in our church who are active in the American Legion are asking to put up a permanent flag pole outside the church to fly the American flag continually. I am struggling with going that far because I think that it could cross that theological line that I have mentioned. For one, I believe this could give our community the mistaken impression that our church views itself as an entity of the USA. We are not, even though we are part of an institution that has always been prominent in American society (another “tension”). I certainly would not be good with flying Old Glory without also flying the Christian flag above it, which is never supposed to be done. Do we fly them side-by-side on two poles and at equal height, symbolizing an equal allegiance to both? We must not allow our love for America to compromise Biblical truth, but neither do we renounce our dual-citizenship as Americans or appear to be ungrateful for the freedoms that affords us. This is no trivial matter that we are discussing!

  • Bud
    April 10, 2016

    Patriotism does NOT mean blind obedience to what the Government says. More often it should be symbolized by standing Against what the government says and does. This Nationilism that seems to be running Rampant in this country seems to me to be Anti-Christian. For those of you who believe that people have Died for our Freedoms, say since the Revolutionary War, please list for me those times, but pleases do not include Iraq, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Europe in either war, Japan, Cuba, Phillipines, or any other place where we killed people for no other Reason than to further our Empire, and/or secure ourDominence in the world. For you people who Believe in, and like to recite the pledgeofallegience, please educate yourselves about where, when, and WHY it was written. A hint:a defrocked minister who preached more Socialism that Christianity wrote it. You can find out Why, if you care. Finally, the Better Position is that Government is the Greatest Evil that exists in this World. I am not including Demonic Forces. Or am I? Why would you Want to honor that in the Church? Especially considering that the State is who executed Christ. Take the flag out of the Church, and do not attempt to serve Two Masters!

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