Driving just west of The Big Chicken — Marietta, Georgia’s famous landmark — yesterday, I passed the expansive Roswell Street Baptist Church. A large American flag was blowing in the brisk wind — with a much, much smaller Christian flag on the same chain below it.
What is the message here? I wondered while trying to not judge.
But the size and prominence of the American flag — with the hardly noticeable Christian flag below — may well communicate a (perhaps unintended) message.
It raises the very important question: Are we Christian Americans or American Christians?
Civil religion — the mixing of religious faith and nationalism to the point of being indistinguishable — is hard to address rationally. Those who embrace that perspective are very emotional about their feelings and see any challenge as unpatriotic.
I learned of another good Baptist church that simply forgot to have Communion for nearly two years when without a pastor. But shortly thereafter, someone told me, “all hell broke loose when someone moved the American flag.”
For ministers and other church leaders who are both patriotic Americans and committed Christians — but understand the priorities and differences between the two — are often challenged by church members who cannot.
But order really is important.