Old Glory, Patriotic Rustic Peeling American Flag.

The Declaration of Independence… from being comfortable

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Old Glory, Patriotic Rustic Peeling American Flag.
Old Glory, Patriotic Rustic Peeling American Flag.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why in many houses of worship we have national flags displayed near the altar. It seems a little misguided to me, because I don’t think God cares what passport you carry. It’s also interesting to think that with so many people who use the phrase “separation of church and state” I haven’t seen too many in the flock voice concerns about the stars and stripes being displayed prominently in sanctuaries across the country. It makes me uncomfortable because no one else seems to say anything about this.

For the last 50 years, the American church has stayed out of social justice issues (with the exception of the civil rights movements of the 1960s). By recusing itself from the issues of the day, the church has recused itself from being relevant to the conversation. Instead, it chose to define itself by declaring what it does not allow, rather than what was allowed. The last time I was reading the New Testament, it seems to me that Christ was really involved within the political and social justice conversations of his time. Christianity at its best offers us a way of life that is predicated on loving others and advocating for the voiceless. Christianity is a faith of being uncomfortable. This means we should be actively challenging those initiatives that have been put into place by those currently in power, who perpetuate the active disenfranchisement of others. Because it’s occurring all around us.

Pope Francis has openly stated that he believes global economic disparity should be a major concern for the Catholic Church. Yet, many American cardinals are wary of this approach. Which leads me to ponder: have we become complacent in our comfortability?

Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population yet own more than 25 percent of the world’s wealth.  Yes, to most Americans, the suffering of war, poverty and disease occurs away from home and all we can do is “pray” after we watch the 6 p.m. news. Have we become complacent in our own spiritual lives that we have, like Pilate, washed our hands of the Gospel?

Just as being Christian is about your actions, over how loud you sing, or how you pray, being American has nothing to do about your outward show of Americaness. It has everything to do about what you hold dear and share in common with others. I don’t think God cares what lapel pin you wear during election season. He is more interested in how we treat others.

For American Christians, we should be wary of what politicians say about us. The prevailing pundits don’t speak for me, or my idea of the church. The only way to change this conversation is to get up from our couches and get uncomfortable. Get uncomfortable and advocate for others who are not in positions of privilege. It’s what we’re called to do.

Join us at 10 a.m., July 5 at Indaba Coffee for our next Coffee Talk for a discussion on Religion & Patriotism. Oberst is a panelist.

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5 comments

  1. I don’t think or put up any flags in our church building. If any flag ever gets face time it would be for prayer or mission.

    Skyler this statement is so broad and overreaching:

    “For the last 50 years, the American church has stayed out of social justice issues (with the exception of the civil rights movements of the 1960s). By recusing itself from the issues of the day, the church has recused itself from being relevant to the conversation. Instead, it chose to define itself by declaring what it does not allow, rather than what was allowed.”

    How can you make that kind of judgment? The work among addicts, crisis pregnancy centers, the missional movement back to the urban cores, the engagement of politics and challenging the ‘faith only in the steeple’ mindset, org’s like World Vision, Salvation Army, World Relief and Samaritans Purse have been frontline in justice and mercy work.

    Yes, American’s are wealthy and they also carry the leading load of the aid work in the world. There are various numbers, depending on military funding and economic but the general stats for 2012 Foreign Assistance Fast Facts: FY2012
    The United States remained the world’s largest bilateral donor, obligating approximately $48.4 billion—$31.2 billion in economic assistance and $17.2 billion in military assistance.
    $19.1 billion of the $31.2 billion in obligated U.S. economic assistance went to 182 countries; the rest was obligated to non-specified regions. Afghanistan received the most, approximately $3.3 billion, while Brunei received the least, just $3,950.
    The U.S. disbursed $19.0 billion in economic assistance to 184 countries; it disbursed $14.2 billion in military assistance to 142 countries.

  2. lol, “I don’t think…” wow, spell check and edit option PLEASE….I am sabotaging my own comments the more I type!!!

  3. I agree with Mr. Blauer that it’s a bit of an exaggeration to claim that the American church has completely excused itself from the social justice table (#notallChristians?). While I agree that Christianity and American patriotism have been unhealthily combined, it can be rather difficult to disengage your religion from your politics. While most readers of this site would probably condemn the culture wars of the religious right as an improper mixture of religion and politics, social justice advocacy could easily become another form of Christian political engagement. So who’s brand of Christian political activism is more… Christian? Rather depends on your values and your definition of Christianity… Ken Symes just did an interesting series on this over at his blog http://merecslewis.blogspot.com

  4. Skyler, I was rather struck in your denouncement of, to my ear at least, conservative christians. One of the issues that evangelicals, and I use that term with caution because these secondary definitions seem to change constantly, have put much of their time and sacrifice of personal comfort into the abortion issue. The terms “those who have no voice” and “others not in position of privilege” certainly applies to the unborn.

    I agree with Eric in that the church has started or supported many organizations and groups that have been selflessly involved in helping the helpless. In fact I’ve heard statistics regarding sacrificial monetary giving to support or help others to be much higher among conservative christians. I’ll do some more to back up that statement, and there’s always room for all of us to grow in grace and generosity, may God help us to do so.

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