There are times when you watch or hear something and it doesn’t sit too well with you. Then there are times you watch or hear something and you close your eyes and hope that it isn’t real – maybe you are dreaming or hallucinating. About fifteen minutes ago, I had one of those moments. Take a second to watch this video (EDIT: The video has since been taken down. Here is a similar video that gets the same point across).
If you watched it, you are possibly experiencing one of a few emotions. Some of you might be heart-warmed – thankful that a church gathering, in these days of moral decline, would still revere our flag and country. Others might be indifferent or a little confused as to why this song is being sung in a church. Then there are some of you that are outraged, confused, and possibly even speechless – and you guys are most likely in the minority.
The Nagging Question
While I was the mascot at the University of Kentucky, every football game the cheerleaders and mascots would participate in the pre-game activities that included the National Anthem. We would all line up, put our left hands behind our backs and our right hands over our hearts and we would pay tribute to our “great nation” with the playing of the National Anthem as we gazed at the American Flag.
Every game I became more and more uncomfortable during this portion of pre-game. One question began to nag at me: as a Christian, is it acceptable for me to give my allegiance to anything other than Jesus? I thought that this question would go away and honestly, I really hoped it would. But it didn’t. It grew more intense and it got a lot louder.
And so I see this video tonight. I honestly felt sick to my stomach. You know, I would understand it more if the song was being sung at a Fourth of July celebration or somewhere other than in a church. Honestly, I would be a lot more angry if I wasn’t as sad and disheartened.
If you see no problem in this song and it being sung sandwiched between other songs about Jesus, I ask you to consider the following lyrics. Just for a moment, look at the next section with new eyes.
Wave On, Old Glory, Wave On
“Wave on, Old Glory, wave on
Keep us united, free, and strong
In the face of all adversity, attacks upon our liberty
Remind us where our loyalty belongs
Wave on, Old Glory, wave on”
First, a flag or country should never be our driving force, as Christians, to be united, free and/or strong. Second, a Christian’s liberty and freedom can never be overcome (see my other article on this). Jesus took care of that for us once and for all.
I think the most striking lyric of the whole song is, “Remind us where our loyalty belongs.” Our loyalty most certainly does not belong to a country or a flag! How can a follower of Jesus sing these lyrics and not feel at least a little bit uncomfortable?
“All throughout the course of history
You inspired our hopes and dreams of peace “
Sadly, you could take the lyrics above, put them into a worship song and never know the difference! So, if someone is singing this song during a church service there should, understandably, be at least some confusion as to where our peace comes from. One song says America and it’s flag and the hymnal says Jesus. So, which one is it?
Respect vs. Idolatry
Listening to a song with these kinds of lyrics, being sung by three Christians in a place that professes Jesus as Lord smacks of idolatry. The problem is that they aren’t alone. Every Fourth of July, and now 9/11, churches across the nation have similar services where an hour or more is devoted to worshiping America and lifting up the flag.
I think it is acceptable to respect our nation and be thankful for the worldly freedom it gives us but at what point is our “respect” for these things straight idolatry? And when does the word “respect” cover up the reality that some of us have given ourselves over to a flag and begun worshiping something else other than Jesus?
We cannot serve two masters. We cannot live in two separate kingdoms. We cannot trust in any ruler other than the only Ruler – Jesus Christ. We either choose one…or the other.
I ask that for the following questions, the Spirit will wash over you. The questions aren’t easy – they will force you to rethink things that you might have held so dearly to your heart for so long. Some of your identity might even be at stake. But again, I pray that the Spirit will lead you as you read and consider.
1. What does “allegiance” mean to you?
2. Do you have an allegiance to Jesus?
3. Do you have an allegiance to the United States of America, or what ever country you reside?
4. Is it acceptable for followers of Jesus to have multiple allegiances?
5. Is peace found through military engagements, war, national policies or the way Jesus teaches?
6. Are there any policies or ideals that you support that would be dissonant to the teachings of Jesus?
7. Does your “respect” for your country border on worship?
8. Does the flag have any place in a church building?
9. What might the early Christians say about our “respect” and “reverence” for our country and flag?
10. Can our freedom ever be taken away?
Many Christians are so indoctrinated with nationalism that they have an almost impossible time distinguishing between America’s identity and their identity in Jesus. Some would find it crazy to think that one could be a Christian in America yet not bow down to the flag.
We need to ask ourselves the questions above and we need to be honest in our answers. Our ultimate concern should be preserving the Kingdom of God not the United States of America.