Letters to the Editor
Readers write about displaying American flags in churches.
The American flag in church: its different implications
In response to Becky Akers's July 28 Opinion piece, "Does the American flag belong in a church?": If the American flag is just a wooden pole with a piece of fabric bearing a nationalistic symbol attached, I would agree it doesn't belong in a church. But, to me, it is much more than that.
The American Constitution came as a monumental gift to the world, unparalleled throughout history. Its chief theme is the freedom of man. The several freedoms it guarantees boil down to the freedom to think. That freedom is what tyrants most fear. And real freedom to think is a spiritual thing. It stems from freedom of religion. So to me, the American flag is resolved from a thing to a thought, the thought of freedom of religion.
Churches of many denominations display the flag in their sanctuaries, the most basic reason being gratitude for the right to worship according to conscience. Yes, the American flag belongs in a church.
Regarding the recent Opinion piece on flags in churches: The American flag represents inherent human ideals. Equality, freedom, truth, peace, love, personal worth, everlasting life, and justice compose a common sense of fairness.
The American difference was to instate laws in defense of this inherent mind-set. It seems the flag should be displayed within all religious establishments. This flag does not represent the oppressive mind-set and social world established by mankind.
If not from God, then from where is this sense of fairness derived?
In response to the recent Opinion piece on the American flag in church: As a Roman Catholic priest, I believe that no flag of any nation should be displayed in church.
Some believe that the turning point of the church toward the worldly power of empire happened when Roman Emperor Constantine I converted to Christianity. Constantine was the first to carry a Christian symbol into battle by ordering that the cross be painted on the shields of his soldiers.
American flags displayed in churches reinforce the myth that God favors the United States over other nations, that America is a force for good in a holy war against "evildoers," that we are a "light on a hill" for the rest of the world.
Whenever the powers of state use religion to seek God's blessings on their endeavors, religion is profaned.
Churches should be sanctuaries for people of every race, culture, and way of life. National flags exclude.
In response to the recent piece on flags in churches: For me, Ms. Akers's piece illustrated the reality that Christianity in the United States is drifting toward a civic religion, similar to that of the Roman Empire, where faith in the gods was seen as part of one's civic duties.
Ironically, it was Christianity's failure to accept this social contract that brought it into conflict with the empire.
Regarding the recent piece on flags in churches: Many Americans, enraptured by the tinsel of patriotism, allow a government in thrall to the rich, a society based on the inequality of wealth, to make a mockery of the country's democratic pretensions. The ruling elite takes refuge in patriotic banalities, balancing self-interest, avidity for profit, and the will to dominate against the claims of justice and Christian compassion.
American patriots, whatever their economic and social status, must heed the truth of Samuel Johnson's words, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."
Regarding Ms. Akers's commentary about the United States' flag in church: She seemed to neglect one real possibility for having it there – as a reminder that we should pray to the God that we worship, even to the point of vigilance, that the government in power – which the flag represents – never pass laws that will override the freedom of religion (yes, that includes freedom from religion) that our Founding Fathers promised in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Persecution ignored or overlooked is persecution condoned.
Regarding the recent Opinion piece, "Does the American flag belong in a church?": Yes, I believe it does. It is not there to be worshiped or exalted above God. It simply needs to be present as a silent reminder of our First Amendment rights "peaceably to assemble" and permit "free exercise of religion."
If some churches wish to show their gratitude by affirming their allegiance, so be it. I am certain God understands. Too many of God's children do not have the ability peaceably to assemble in a church and worship him as they please.
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