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The American Flag

Started by RogerMartim, January 19, 2020, 10:51:23 AM

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Steven W Bohler

Quote from: Charles Austin on January 25, 2020, 10:10:38 AM
You make good thoughtful and theoretical points, Pastor Engelbrect, but those of us who grew up in the 50s saw patriotism warped  into the worst kind of nationalistic chauvinism, idolatry, and attitudes which raised flag and country above everything else, including God. It led to the "kill a commie for Christ" kind of sloganeering.
Hence our wariness about flags in the chancel.

So, stop projecting YOUR errors onto others.  No one in this congregation adheres to the "kill a Commie for Christ" attitude.  No one.  And we have a flag in the chancel.

D. Engebretson

Quote from: Steven W Bohler on January 25, 2020, 10:47:58 AM
Quote from: Charles Austin on January 25, 2020, 10:10:38 AM
You make good thoughtful and theoretical points, Pastor Engelbrect, but those of us who grew up in the 50s saw patriotism warped  into the worst kind of nationalistic chauvinism, idolatry, and attitudes which raised flag and country above everything else, including God. It led to the "kill a commie for Christ" kind of sloganeering.
Hence our wariness about flags in the chancel.

So, stop projecting YOUR errors onto others.  No one in this congregation adheres to the "kill a Commie for Christ" attitude.  No one.  And we have a flag in the chancel.

After over 30 years in the ministry with churches that all had flags as per the synod's historical custom, I have never encountered a church-wide attitude that matched what is described as "nationalistic chauvinism, idolatry, and attitudes which raised flag and country above everything else, including God."  While my personal preference would be to not have the flags, I don't see them eclipsing gospel either.  Most of the time they just sit there, noticed with no more attention than any other part of the church's interior.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

RDPreus

There are sound theological reasons for not displaying the American flag in the chancel that have nothing to do with one's political orientation.  As someone who supported the United States against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, I don't think the American flag belongs in the chancel.  When we think of the untold suffering inflicted on millions of people all over the world under Communism, it is callused indeed to mock those Christians who believed it an honorable thing to fight against the advance of Communism.  One can rightly oppose displaying the American flag in the chancel while encouraging the preacher to preach against the evils of Communism from the pulpit.

Charles Austin

Peter writes:
Weird that the same hyper-nationalist idolaters who put country ahead of God in the 50's were the same people being criticized for insisting on adding "under God" to the pledge of allegiance. Sound to me like people are going to find a way to excoriate traditional, conservative Christians no matter what they did or do.
I comment:
I do not recall much criticism in the move to put "under God" in the pledge, a move, by the way, led by the Knights of Columbus in an effort to show that we were "under God" and not those atheistic communists. And I dare to remind people again that the "God" most often spoken of in those "national" settings is the "God" of the deists, unitarians and generalists, not necessarily the Holy Trinity.

Pastor Fienen writes:
The experiences of Pr. Engelbrect do not negate the experiences of Pr. Austin. But neither do the experiences of Pr. Austin negate those of Pr. Engelbrect. YMMV. It would be an unfair exaggeration to accuse those who object to flags in the sanctuary as hating the USA or disloyalty to our nation. But likewise it would be an unfair exaggeration to accuse those who place a US flag in the sanctuary or allow it to remain of idolatry and setting up a golden calf in the sanctuary.
I comment:
I did not say and do not contend that everyone fell prey to idolistic nationalism. I merely point out that for some the flag was the symbol of that.

Pastor Fienen writes:
Government is a gift from God, even when that government is disobedient to God. Parsing our responsibilities as citizens of God's kingdom and citizens of an earthly kingdom is not a simple or obvious task. Our first loyalty must be to God above all else. But respect for and obedience to earthly authority placed over us is also commanded by God (Fourth Commandment). When those loyalties and obediences conflict it is not always easy to determine exactly what our duty is.
I comment:
Oh? Why is it not easy? God first, then everything else. All suggestions from scripture that national authority is installed by God is secondary. And I have always wondered whether God "installed" all those other governments out to destroy the people of Israel as they settled the promised land. We know from our times that all governments, even those we consider "good," are capable of evils that require resistance from Christians.

Pastor Fienen writes:
Thus, talking about how we as citizens of God's kingdom should fulfill our responsibilities as citizens of an earthly nation is an important topic. It might also be well for us to exercise a bit of humility as we judge those whose opinion and practice in these matters differ from our own. It would be well, when discussing these matters, to ask what meaning the other person places on having a flag in the church before judging them as obviously wrong.
I comment:
Not a bad idea. Raise the issue among our people what it means to see or not see the flag in the chancel. What symbolism is truly conveyed? What attitudes are wholesome and what attitudes may suggest the need for correction?

Pastor Bohler writes:
So, stop projecting YOUR errors onto others.  No one in this congregation adheres to the "kill a Commie for Christ" attitude.  No one.  And we have a flag in the chancel.
I comment:
Relax. Not my error. I did not say that everyone who favors chancel flags is an idolater. I am not surprised that no one in your congregation adheres to that old slogan. (Although how do you really know?) The "Commies" (as we knew them) are pretty much gone; we now cheerfully trade with them and ask the sons of those old "Commies" to help in our elections.  ;)

Pastor Engelbretson writes:
After over 30 years in the ministry with churches that all had flags as per the synod's historical custom, I have never encountered a church-wide attitude that matched what is described as "nationalistic chauvinism, idolatry, and attitudes which raised flag and country above everything else, including God."
I comment:
I do not say that the idolatrous attitudes were widespread or "church-wide," I only note that the flag could and did play a role in unhealthy chauvinism.

Pastor Engebretson:
While my personal preference would be to not have the flags, I don't see them eclipsing gospel either.  Most of the time they just sit there, noticed with no more attention than any other part of the church's interior.
Me:
Perhaps, but if so, sad; for it suggests they are not noticing the symbolism of windows, font, chalice, paten, altar, paraments and candles either.
ELCA PASTOR. Iowa born and raised. And look at this. Here's the old 1960s protestor and critic of our government as virtually the only "love this country" patriot in this forum.

RDPreus

Rev. Austin, I encourage you to read the Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Dave Benke

Quote from: D. Engebretson on January 25, 2020, 11:10:00 AM
Quote from: Steven W Bohler on January 25, 2020, 10:47:58 AM
Quote from: Charles Austin on January 25, 2020, 10:10:38 AM
You make good thoughtful and theoretical points, Pastor Engelbrect, but those of us who grew up in the 50s saw patriotism warped  into the worst kind of nationalistic chauvinism, idolatry, and attitudes which raised flag and country above everything else, including God. It led to the "kill a commie for Christ" kind of sloganeering.
Hence our wariness about flags in the chancel.

So, stop projecting YOUR errors onto others.  No one in this congregation adheres to the "kill a Commie for Christ" attitude.  No one.  And we have a flag in the chancel.

After over 30 years in the ministry with churches that all had flags as per the synod's historical custom, I have never encountered a church-wide attitude that matched what is described as "nationalistic chauvinism, idolatry, and attitudes which raised flag and country above everything else, including God."  While my personal preference would be to not have the flags, I don't see them eclipsing gospel either.  Most of the time they just sit there, noticed with no more attention than any other part of the church's interior.

When people notice the flag the most is when it is transitory - it's never in the sanctuary and now it is in the sanctuary - why?  It's always in the sanctuary and now it's not - why?  I had to intervene when a recent seminary grad a few years ago moved the flag out of the sanctuary, and was just about run out of the congregation.  There was a mistake in that situation, and it was that the newly ordained pastor told no one about what he was doing or why in advance.  So when the hubbub arose, he regressed to stating that this was what he was taught at the seminary.  That also did not fly.  The main donor and congregational heavyweight was called "Sarge," which explains it a little more.

Anyway, lots of conversation should be involved.

Dave Benke
It's OK to Pray

Dave Likeness

My father fought in WWII under General George Patton in a tank division.
When he returned from the war to family life, he never spoke about the war.
During the 1950's one of his priorities was to serve the Lord in his local parish.
He taught the High School Bible Class on Sunday.  He was active on various
congregational boards and committees. Our family attended worship and
sunday school every week.

Bottom Line:  My father had a strong faith in Christ and was grateful to the
Lord that his life was spared in WWII.  Whether there was an American flag
in the chancel never was an issue for him. 

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on January 25, 2020, 09:03:15 AM
I just read Heather Choate Davis's article about removing U.S. flags from Lutheran churches. Point of history: Lutherans have long connected church and state even as they have distinguished them. A good example is the Notbischofs of the Reformation when the princes served as bishops. That kind of state-church relationship continued for centuries through the consistory system, if I recall correctly.

Another point that seemed odd: making a choice between flag or Bible. It's a bit like asking someone to choose between their God and their family. I choose to keep both and would die to keep both as I sense most people would. Christ calls us forsake all in following Him. One must avoid the idolatry of obeying man rather than God. Yet the same Christ would have us love our families and also our nation even as He loves all and gave Himself for all. We don't resolve those tensions by disowning our families, burning or removing the national symbol.


Jesus also says something about hating our own families if we are going to follow him. Jesus requires greater love for him than the best things in our lives; not just the worst things in our lives, e.g., giving up drugs to follow Jesus.

I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: peter_speckhard on January 25, 2020, 10:22:08 AM
Quote from: Charles Austin on January 25, 2020, 10:10:38 AM
You make good thoughtful and theoretical points, Pastor Engelbrect, but those of us who grew up in the 50s saw patriotism warped  into the worst kind of nationalistic chauvinism, idolatry, and attitudes which raised flag and country above everything else, including God. It led to the "kill a commie for Christ" kind of sloganeering.
Hence our wariness about flags in the chancel.
Weird that the same hyper-nationalist idolaters who put country ahead of God in the 50's were the same people being criticized for insisting on adding "under God" to the pledge of allegiance. Sound to me like people are going to find a way to excoriate traditional, conservative Christians no matter what they did or do.


"under God" was not so much a Christian addition as it was an anti-communist statement. Lots of religions can accept "under God" or "in God we trust," but only Christians talk about being "under Jesus Christ" and "Jesus Christ is Lord."


How many Christians sing (and believe) that "God Bless America" is a Christian song? It was not composed by a Christian, but by a Jewish man.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: RDPreus on January 25, 2020, 11:31:40 AM
There are sound theological reasons for not displaying the American flag in the chancel that have nothing to do with one's political orientation.  As someone who supported the United States against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, I don't think the American flag belongs in the chancel.  When we think of the untold suffering inflicted on millions of people all over the world under Communism, it is callused indeed to mock those Christians who believed it an honorable thing to fight against the advance of Communism.  One can rightly oppose displaying the American flag in the chancel while encouraging the preacher to preach against the evils of Communism from the pulpit.


And also support the Russian Christians who kept the faith under the persecution of the state. Similarly, regardless of what one may believe about a Palestinian state; we must consider the Palestinian (and Jewish) Christians as our brothers and sisters in the faith. We are citizens of the kingdom of God with them.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

D. Engebretson

Quote from: Charles Austin on January 25, 2020, 11:42:15 AM
Pastor Engebretson:
While my personal preference would be to not have the flags, I don't see them eclipsing gospel either.  Most of the time they just sit there, noticed with no more attention than any other part of the church's interior.
Me:
Perhaps, but if so, sad; for it suggests they are not noticing the symbolism of windows, font, chalice, paten, altar, paraments and candles either.

I was making a general comment on the flags as compared to the general aspects of the church's interior (walls, ceiling, etc.).  As a matter of fact I do teach regularly in sermons and Bible class on the symbolism of the things you mention.   
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Charles Austin

Good idea to mention the symbolisms. Also a good idea to mention why the flag is there, or is not there.
ELCA PASTOR. Iowa born and raised. And look at this. Here's the old 1960s protestor and critic of our government as virtually the only "love this country" patriot in this forum.

Steven Tibbetts

Quote from: Charles Austin on January 25, 2020, 11:42:15 AM
I comment:
I did not say and do not contend that everyone fell prey to idolistic nationalism. I merely point out that for some the flag was the symbol of that.

<snip>

I comment:
Relax. Not my error. I did not say that everyone who favors chancel flags is an idolater. I am not surprised that no one in your congregation adheres to that old slogan. (Although how do you really know?) The "Commies" (as we knew them) are pretty much gone; we now cheerfully trade with them and ask the sons of those old "Commies" to help in our elections.  ;)

<snip>

I comment:
I do not say that the idolatrous attitudes were widespread or "church-wide," I only note that the flag could and did play a role in unhealthy chauvinism.


Your actual entire post, unedited:

Quote from: Charles Austin on January 25, 2020, 10:10:38 AM
You make good thoughtful and theoretical points, Pastor Engelbrect, but those of us who grew up in the 50s saw patriotism warped  into the worst kind of nationalistic chauvinism, idolatry, and attitudes which raised flag and country above everything else, including God. It led to the "kill a commie for Christ" kind of sloganeering.
Hence our wariness about flags in the chancel.

One can only marvel at your lack of awareness of what you communicate on this forum, despite the feedback you receive, day-after-day.

Pax et bonum, Steven+
The Rev. Steven Paul Tibbetts, STS
Pastor Zip's Blog

Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

I wondered as I read Heather Choate Davis's article whether the matter that concerned her was less the presence of flags  and more the electioneering in pulpit and church. I do think that pastors and congregations are called to speak clearly on public issues of morality and religious freedom. I personally avoid preaching particular parties or candidates. Perhaps she is witnessing that issue in her congregation or district.

I like Pres. Benke's comments on needed communication and healing after a young pastor moved flags in the sanctuary. It's a good reminder to us all about the need for patience and clear communication.

Charles Austin

For heaven sake's, Steven, it was very clear that I wasn't referring to every single person in the whole damn country.
Read "one nation under God: how corporate America Invited Christian America" by Kevin Kruse.
I lived through those times. I remember.
ELCA PASTOR. Iowa born and raised. And look at this. Here's the old 1960s protestor and critic of our government as virtually the only "love this country" patriot in this forum.

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