Sunday, July 01, 2007

Fourth of July service

After another Fourth-of-July-weekend service including "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America", I am pondering the same issue I ponder every July: How, in corporate worship, can we express gratitude to God for the advantages and blessings we enjoy in the United States, and ask for God's blessing and guidance for our country and its leaders, without all the bombastic, non reflective flag waving?

I always dread the Fourth of July service because, at least where I live, it's hard to avoid the impression that not only is there no separation of church and state, but in addition, "state" is essentially synonymous with "the Republican party." I squirm when the Boy Scouts, much less a military honor guard, "troop the colors" into the church. (That didn't happen in the church we attend now, but it's de rigeur in some. The Scientist and I share a particularly appalling memory of watching ARMED GUARDS escort the flag up the aisle in one of our previous churches.)

Does a nation's flag really belong in a Christian church, anyway? If so, why?

Is it just me? Is it just that I live in one of the reddest counties of this (mostly red) state? Is my inner Mennonite coming out? I would really like some ideas about other ways of observing the Fourth of July in the church.

16 comments:

don't eat alone said...

Even up here in blue Massachusetts, there are US flags in most every sanctuary; no one seems to get the inherent contradiction. We are not God's nation, no matter how badly we want to be. We should be uncomfortable with bringing the flag inside God's house.

Peace,
Milton

Presbyterian Gal said...

I am surprised to read this asI have not experienced any of this in the Presbyterian churches here since the '70's. No flag waving, no g'ment stuff. Although occasionally we pray for our leaders.

I would squirm as well. I could see a globe in a Christian church, but not any one nation's flag.

The only observance of the holiday today was our pastor telling us that on any holiday weekend, which is likely to be both before and after this year, he is enormously grateful for everyone who showed up at church this morning.

DogBlogger said...

Interesting reflections. It's definitely not a point of agreement in my denomination, and The Alpha and I admit to squirmy feelings similar to yours and The Scientist's on occasion.

You might want to check this article and the two commentaries linked at the end of it. (Of course, none of it solves anything!)

Kievas said...

When I moved here from India, I was shocked to see the flag up at the altar (this was a Catholic church in Boston at the time). Since then, I've seen them in Indiana and Wisconsin.

At the moment, our church doesn't have one, but they don't have a cross either. I'm not too happy about the (lack of) cross, but it's better than the alternative.

Quotidian Grace said...

Yesterday was the first day that I ever saw flags in the sanctuary at our new church--the US flag on one side and the Christian flag on the other. They weren't brought in, just standing there.

I'm going to post on the same subject, thanks for the prompt.

Christine said...

My church has no flag whatsoever in the sanctuary, and we seldom sing patriotic anthems. Our pastor did preach on the subject of freedom, but in a Christian, rather than nationalist context. At the service's conclusion we sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing." I for one am all for keeping secular holidays out of the church.

Christine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs. M said...

We have a flag in the sanctuary, but it's at the back. (It got moved when we acquired our British rector.)

I agree that it shouldn't be in there at all, and I really don't like rah-rah July 4 (or Memorial Day, etc.) services. In fact, if it's not a church holiday, I really don't like observing it in church (Mother's Day, etc). Thanksgiving might be the exception, but should there be Thanksgiving every Sunday? (And that holiday's history isn't particularly Christ-like in a lot of ways.)

Good grief-- sorry for the long rant.

Jan said...

Coming over from Presbyterian Gal's blog to ask: WHERE in Texas do you live??

My quiet strong husband is also a scientist! (retired chemist)

zorra said...

Jan, I'll email you. Nice to have another Texan on board.

Songbird said...

zorra, I mentioned our nation's founding in the sermon, but unless the 4th falls on the Sunday, I really don't go there in a big way. Last time it did, I preached about the challenges and responsibilities of freedom and being part of something new.
I don't like flags in church, but I'm not going to fight to the death over it, at least not just now.
I have to say I have mixed feelings about singing the patriotic hymns. Most of them have beautiful, noble sentiments about our nation being called to something higher and transformative. I like that, and I wonder where else they will ever be sung in this culture where people do so little group singing? We had a brief sing-along of three favorites before the worship service began, at my direction. I have to admit I enjoyed it. I'm not sure how that can be, but I did.

Diane said...

we flag wave a little, but we don't have flags in the sanctuary. I dont think they belong there, but many people disagree.

Preacher Mom said...

I am with you in your discomfort around this topic. There are flags in our sanctuary. I don't like it, but like Songbird, I'm not willing to choose that as my battlefied to die on. One Sunday (can't remember if it was around the 4th last year or around Memorial Day) an elder moved the flag from the corner (where it is basically ignored) to a more prominent position. She was surprised when I reacted negatively - and strongly - to the move. Once I explained that our country's flag could not be allowed to take a more prominent position in worship than, say, the Bible or the Lord's table, she understood more of where I was coming from. Still, in a conservative, flag-waving community, it is a touchy subject.

cheesehead said...

I chose America the Beautiful as the final hymn this past Sunday. It is the only patriotic hymns I will ever choose, because I think it is one that calls our country to rely on God, not the other way around.

We have a paper flag hanging unobtrusively in a corner of our bulletin board. When we had a leaky ceiling, and it got ruined I was worried, but a fresh one showed up the next week with no repercussions.

Teri said...

no flags here--and we still hear about when it was removed from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall. I think that might have happened before I was born, I'm not sure.

I agree that the flag doesn't belong there, and most of the nationalist hymns don't belong there either...with only a few exceptions. but calling on us as part of a nation to more closely live up to our calling as Christians--I'm all for that. I think that might be what's happening here this Sunday (but I'm not sure, since I'm not preaching). We left it alone last Sunday.

PPB said...

Oh this issues makes me nuts. Current church has no flags (it's a very mulit-national group, though), but most around here do. Since the newspaper should be read through the lens of scripture, I would welcome a sermon on how Christians can be American--one that really looks at it, but flag waving can be saved for the parade, thanks.

One blogger long ago made the most pithy statement ever, I thought:

Christians need to remember that the phrase God bless America is a request, not a given.