Churches and the 4th of July

I was sitting in my living room earlier this evening, talking with my wife and relaxing after mowing the lawn, when the topic of tomorrow morning’s church service came to mind. Just how patriotic was it going to be? The last time the 4th of July fell on a Sunday I was visiting a church where a military officer spoke, there were images flashed across the screens of soldiers in combat, and patriotic songs were sung with great gusto and verve.

This may be why I was attracted to David T. Koyzis‘s post at Evangel entitled “Civil Religion and National Holidays.” Here is a taste:

More than two decades ago I walked into the building of a megachurch near Chicago on the Sunday nearest the Independence Day holiday. I sat down prepared to worship the God who revealed himself uniquely in Jesus Christ, but I was disappointed by what I saw when I opened the bulletin. Every “hymn” was a national song of some sort, including the Star-Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful and My Country ‘Tis of Thee. At one point in the service the congregation was expected to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, apparently substituting for the Creed, which was nowhere in sight. I chose not to remain for the service, got up and left, feeling somewhat cheated.

I am not opposed to expressions of patriotic loyalty, which have their place and time. But I strenuously object to devoting an entire Sunday liturgy to what in effect is a glorification of nation. Nor am I keen on the presence of a national flag in the sanctuary and other symbols of nationhood.

My sentiments exactly. Thanks David.

As to whether or not a church should fly a flag in the sanctuary I learned a lot from Charles Drew, A Public Faith: A Balanced Approach to Social and Political Action.

3 thoughts on “Churches and the 4th of July

  1. The pastor of my Catholic church, whom I very much admire, gave a homily on the Christianity of the founding fathers, explicitly including Thomas Jefferson, and also on religion in the public square. I thought of your forthcoming book, but decided against bringing up Jefferson's heterodoxy in conversation afterwards. I often think about how a Christian can present the challenge of Christianity to non-Christians, and it strikes me that identifying all of the founding fathers and all of the early American republic with orthodox Christianity does Christianity some injustice.


  2. My inclination is to be with Koyzis on both counts. But I haven't read Drew for any kind of sense of his position on flags in churches. I'm sure it has something to do with respecting the entity that allows you to exist with minimal interference. But does our capitol fly church flags because those churches don't interfere in the actions of the state? Or is there a need for mutual respect—is the respect one way? …Of course I'm just thinking out loud and off the cuff. – TL


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