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We are having a bit of contention over the flag of the USA being displayed in the sanctuary. There is a small group of individuals who like to see the US flag up in front of church every week. The Worship Committee has recommend that it be kept in the narthex except when there is a patriotic holiday, then it will be brought into the sanctuary. 

Has anyone else had this experience and if so how was it handled?


Our church doesn't have a policy, but it someone wanted to put a national flag in our sanctuary regularly,  I would oppose it for two reasons. 

The first is rooted in Jesus' story about paying taxes to Caesar. In Mark 11:13-17 Jesus is tested by a group and asked if its lawful to pay this tax. Jesus asks for the coin they pay the tax with, and then says "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. " This suggests that there's a balance in our allegiance to the governments humans form and our allegiance to God, but to keep what belongs to God focused on God. So in the sanctuary of a Church where God's people gather for worship and to hear God's word read and preached, it belongs to God. I would hesitate to have the symbol of a flag included in that space regularly. 

The second comes from the general attitude of the Reformers to any kind of visual representations in the worship space. If you look at the sanctuary of Reformed churches, they are usually bare of any kind of visual images to avoid the temptation toward idolatry. While churches may have started to include some visual imagery (we have banners and coloured cloth which changes with the seasons), these objects are usually temporary. The only permanent thing in our sanctuary is the cross. It would seem to take us quite far from our tradition and would also visually equate the cross and the flag which seems dangerous. 

Edit: I regret that I don't have any experience with this conversation, but I wanted to give some kind of response to your very thoughtful question. 


You have hit the nail on the head in my opinion.  My husband (and I) has served as interim pastor, pulpit supply and student pastor, in many churches and several denominations.  Seeing a flag in the sanctuary always hit me as being wrong, but I was not really articulating what was wrong with it from a Biblical stand point.  It felt distracting and misplaced given the "worship" space, maybe because growing up the sanctuary  was just that; a holy space where voices were hushed and feet were slowed.  In many ways that has been lost already, but to add national flags, or any flags representative of the world, don't belong in "God's space".  We should leave our worldliness at the door before entering into worship of the God of the Universe, the Creator of ALL things, and the Almighty King.  Flags are designed to incite emotional reactions, and our emotions should be focused with our hearts and minds towards God alone during worship.  We face enough distractions when we leave church - emotional as well as political, economical, etc.  Let's keep the sanctuary sancitfied and our eyes on the cross. 


le we may "give to Caesar" our true citizenship is "in heaven," i.e. the Kingdom of God. I would not wish to even tacitly suggest that there is a correspondence between earthly kingdoms and the eternal kingdom. We are seeing too much unhealthy "Christian" nationalism. Looking back at the last congregation I served, over a period of years we removed the flag and removed the picture of former pastors from the wall. In place we put small flags the represented all the nations from which our people came (some 26 at last count) and a small plaque with the words from Revelation 7:9 & 22:2. I say this as one who is a dual national (U.S. and Canada) and who set aside a deferment to join the U.S. Marine  Corps during the Vietnam era. So while a proud American and Canadian, a national flag in the sanctuary is no appropriate. Communities offer ample opportunities to celebrate national holidays.

We removed the US flag for two reasons: 

  1. A church building is a visible depiction of the Church of God. As such, it should reflect who He is, not who we are. The Church as a whole has no specific nationality as it is comprised of every nation. So, it would be a misrepresentation to adorn God's church with uniquely American symbols. Further, it would be a limiting of God's majesty to tie His rule to America since this country is a small piece of His Kingdom. 
  2. Relatedly, if a foreigner from another country were to walk in (which happens somewhat regularly) they might be given the impression that this is the American church and they therefore need to find an Indian, Chinese, Mexican church, etc. 


If it helps, below are the questions that were submitted to our Council to persuade them to remove the flags: 

  1. Is the Church of Christ universal, or is it bound to a nation like Israel in the OT? If we highlight the fact that this is the “US Church,” are we setting ourselves apart from the “UK Church” or the “Chinese Church”? Since Christ “broke down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14; cf. 3:6) between Jews and Gentiles, do you think they would have flown their respective flags in Church where they were supposed to be radically unified? 
  2. Though we should honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, is Church—the place where we honor Christ’s sacrifice—the place to do it? Whose death do we honor in church, God’s or man’s? If we honor both, what message does that send regarding the significance of Christ’s death? Why do we need to honor people in church? Is this man’s house or God’s? (1 Timothy 2:5) Should anything in the church point to what we do? Or should everything in the church point to what God does? 
  3. What does an outsider think when they see the US flag? Won’t the flag signal to a non-citizen that they need to look for the “Mexican” church or the “Indian” church? 
  4. We have more in common with non-American Christians (like Pakistanis) than the most patriotic atheist. 

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