What Was Being Worshiped Yesterday at First Baptist Church in Dallas?

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Yesterday was “Freedom Sunday” at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.  The pastor of First Baptist is Robert Jeffress.  He is a Trump supporter, Christian nationalist, and prominent court evangelical. As the pictures attached to this tweet indicate, it was a day of patriotic celebration in the church sanctuary.

People waved American flags during the service.

The last time I checked, the waving of the American flag was a sign of support or loyalty to the nation.  Jeffress had no problem allowing such an act to take place in a church sanctuary–the place where Christians worship God as a form of expressing their ultimate loyalty.  Patriotism is fine. Flag-waving is fine.  But I wonder if any of the congregation felt uncomfortable that all of this took place in the church sanctuary on a Sunday morning.

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There were fireworks.  Yes, fireworks.  Somehow the pyrotech crew at First Baptist figured out a way to pull this off without burning the place down.  I assume that these fireworks did not represent the pillars of fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness in the Old Testament. (Although it wouldn’t surprise me if someone during the service connected these patriotic fireworks to God’s leading of his new “chosen people”–the United States–through the desert of extreme religious persecution). I also don’t think the fireworks were meant to represent the “tongues of fire” present on the day of Pentecost as recorded in the book of Acts, chapter 2.  (Also, from what I am able to tell from the church website, First Baptist did not celebrate Pentecost Sunday on June 4, 2017).

It also looks like the congregation of First Baptist sung the Woody Guthrie classic “This Land is Your Land.”  I am guessing they did not sing all of the original verses.

How can this not be a form of idolatry?

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107 thoughts on “What Was Being Worshiped Yesterday at First Baptist Church in Dallas?

  1. All I have to say is what would Jesus say about the way these mega churches are not following what he actually taught? What is going to happen on judgement day when these pastors are asked why they caused millions to turn away from the houses of the Lord,The bible I read is nothing like what theses people are preaching ,What happen to give unto Ceasar what is his etc. How can you follow a man that doesn’t even know God ,and we know this by not only his actions but his words, How can you call yourselves Christians and yet follow a group of people that have more in common with the biblical pharisees then anything Christ taught? How can you say your Christian and follow a group of people and a man who promotes hate and violence, a man that lies almost every time he opens his mouth. I know so many that are done with the church because of the things they are seeing in this country,the hypocrisy of Evangelical Christians in this country. What would Jesus say about these things?? Praying for understanding ,praying that we all can come together and praise him,praying that people stop promoting a man that lies on national tv and 5 minutes later says something different, a man that doesn’t even read the bible who picks it up to use for his own purposes ,I mean we all heard him say 2 Corinthians (even my pre school child knows how to say it,his even his wife used religion as a tool I mean she had to read the Lord’s prayer,something we teach our children as soon as they learn to talk.How can you call yourselves Christians while following someone like this? False prophets leading millions away from the Lord and they will all have to answer to him. I am not a minister just a regular bible reader trying to live as Jesus’s plans laid out for us plain and simple and nothing I have seen in this new trump America,or the Evangelical community has shown me that it is what Jesus would like.

  2. I find the hand wringing, condescension, and downright arrogance of many of the posts hear to be very discouraging. Have you people forgot that you live in America, by the Grace of God? Have you forgotten the courage and willingness to sacrifice made by our founding fathers and legions of ancestors before you? You would begrudge fellow Americans in a church the waving of the flag and taking a few minutes to sing a couple patriotic hymns, even once a year?

    Have you forgotten from whence your bounty flows? Do you even care anymore?

    I’m now well over 50, back in the day the antipathy of country and patriotism demonstrated here was the stuff of Jehovah’s Witnesses and various Pacifist cults. That so many Christians of all denominations would now prescribe to the ludicrous idea that showing love and pride for America in their church is a form of idolatry is proof positive of how bankrupt our education system has become; American values are not taught anymore, nor is American exceptionalism. The Marxist frauds, tricks, and tenets of ‘Social Justice’ and ‘Equality of all Faiths and Societies’ have pervaded every one of America’s institutions, sadly now including the bulwark and very symbol of our liberty, our churches.

    But here’s some news for all of you. Tens of millions of Americans disagree and despair of what’s happening in our churches. This luke-warm attitude of not taking a stand against anything except the traditions of the church and your own country.

    You wonder why so many Americans don’t go to church? Many of you despise Donald Trump; the leaders of the church I currently attend don’t like him. Have any of you stopped to wonder why he won in spite of your open disdain? Have any of you, including the author of this hit piece, ever stopped to wonder why Americans still flock to Pastor Jeffress’ church and millions listen to him on radio and TV? Like all good liberals, you give lip service to tolerance and caring what other people think….so why don’t you sit back and reflect on the popularity of leaders like President Trump and Pastor Jeffress? If, that is, you can put aside your arrogance and disdain for own country long enough to see the forest for the trees.

    All of you should be ashamed of yourselves, especially the arrogant and condescending, Mr. Fea.

    Jeff Smith

    • He won because of rank ignorance on the part of voters such as those exemplified at this church. You’d think no Christians ever existed before the US came along.

  3. A thought-provoking post. I’ll have to peruse your other works. Peace be with you!

  4. A few thoughts:

    1. Seeing crap like this makes me even more thankful that I have the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church to cling to for my spiritual and moral formation. I now know that Evangelical Protestantism has now completed and solemnized its apostasy from Christianity; Protestantism as a legitimate expression of Christianity is now dead. Now, Catholic and Eastern/Oriental Orthodox Christianity are the ONLY Christianity that exist. Such idolatry like this is structurally impossible in a rigid traditional Liturgy whose cycle of prayers and hymns are both inflexible and addressed only to the Holy Trinity.

    2. I NEVER want to hear any Baptist, Pentecostalist or any other Evangelical Protestant say that kissing the icon of Christ God is idolatry EVER AGAIN, especially after hearing Evangelical defenses for this indefensible idolatry. Given that these Evangelical Protestants once were Christian, this act of idolatry also constitutes an act of apostasy from Christianity, for those who once worshipped Lord Jesus Christ (however imperfectly is irrelevant) now worship the American Nation, and the Trump Regime. What we saw was nothing less than Dr. Robert Jeffress declaring that he has no King, no God but Caesar, and by all appearances First Baptist of Dallas, TX celebrated his act of apostasy from Christianity and his new worship of America.

    • I am an evangelical Christian. I am a retired United Methodist pastor. What happened in Dallas is not a reflection of many of Protestant churches. On the fourth of July Sunday, I often preached about freedom in Christ and told folks that Christians in other countries are closer to us in kinship than non-Christian Americans. I find wrapping the flag around the cross reprehensible and blasphemous. Jesus was a Jew, who called all people to follow him. He certainly was not an American. He spoke truth to power in the faith and in government. Please do not lump all Protestants in together. I have brothers and sisters in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. We may worship differently, but we have Jesus Christ as Lord of lords and King of kings in common. I would never allow politicians in the pulpit nor would I endorse any candidate from the pulpit. Please rethink your condemnation of all of Protestantism.

      • Penelope: Thanks for finding us. I am sorry if my post came across as a condemnation of all Protestantism. It was not intended that way. I was referring to a specific group of American evangelicals who I call the “court evangelicals.” So I wasn’t even criticizing all of evangelicalism. Thanks again for the comment. I appreciate your perspective and hope you will hang around. We need as many thoughtful voices here and the public square as possible.

      • Notice I said “Baptist, Pentecostalist and other Evangelical Protestants.” How did I condemn all Protestants? Where did I condemn Methodists, Lutherans or Episcopalians? Since when have these Protestants been Evangelical? I don’t think I did condemn Methodists, Lutherans or Episcopalians, and I’m confused about why you think I did.

        I don’t recall Methodists, Lutherans or Episcopalians ever being Evangelicals, saying that the Bible is the only revelation God ever gave, that Christians should only believe those things explicitly written in the Bible, and I don’t recall ever hearing Methodists, Lutherans or Episcopalians ever rejecting Liturgy and Sacraments outright. I’ve visited Methodist Churches before where there was ceremonial reading of the Bible and the Sacraments were offered.

        Since when did condemning Evangelical Protestantism become condemning Liberal Protestantism? At some level, both Liberal Protestants and Evangelical Protestants are equal heirs of the Reformation, but it’s hard for me to tell how Liberal Protestantism and Evangelical Protestantism even are the same religion because they seem to have so very little in common with each other.

  5. Here are my thoughts.

    It should be said before I begin that I am the son of a Marine Corps officer, so I come at this from that angle.

    Yes, I do believe there is a possibility that this could become some form of idolatry, but having seen this kind of stuff first-hand I would argue more times than not it isn’t the case. When it comes down to it, idolatry is the act of placing more importance, faith, and adoration on something other than G-d. However, I think a few questions should be answered before we all assume they were worshipping at the feet of lucifer here (no implied connection to Trump of course).

    1. Is this all they did during their service? Did they express thanks to G-d for this country or anything else? In other words most every church I’ve attended has done something to be thankful for the country we live in (which is perfectly fine), sometimes that’s waving a flag, sometimes singing a song, sometimes recognizing our military service members. At the end of the day, none of that stuff is idolatry, in and of itself, no matter where it is done.

    2. Did they worship G-d in song, scripture, dance, prayer, etc? Were those forms of worship the main point or purpose of the service or was the patriotic display the main point?

    As much as I wish I could answer this question, the author only lists a few things from this service in his rather short article and doesn’t discuss any of these points at all.

    Maybe they only did what he discusses in the article, in that case, I guess it could be borderline idolatry, but if that’s the guideline then no more civic meetings in churches either. Kick out Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts (I would love to address this particular point further, but I’ll refrain), no more public meetings, nothing at all that is not G-d related.

    Is it possible this only took 5 minutes of the service, and the rest of the 1+ hour of time was, in fact, a Bible-based G-d service?

    In church, many of us worship our pastors, our music leaders, our leaders, our electronic devices, and beyond without ever realizing it. How many of us reading this article ever go to church and actually never REALLY think about G-d at all?

    Better yet the question we should all be asking is, “How well do we live our worship to G-d when we are not at church?” Let’s face it, we can all fake it for an hour on Sunday morning, but the real test of our spiritual metal is what happens the other 6 days of the week.

    • Appropriate questions, yet all the other things would not negate the idolatry of a nation as part of worship.
      “This world is not my home. I’m just a-passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue!”
      It may be a great hymn and not Scripture itself, but highly Scriptural!!
      Read Heb 11 just for a few examples.
      I mean, can you picture the church in Rome of the Apostle Paul’s day, celebrating the Emperor and its Roman Legions? Talk about blasphemy, yet what’s the difference?
      It’s no different than Israel of old looking to Egypt or Assyria for protection, when God had to chastise them profusely for rejecting him as their Savior!!
      This kind of patriotism has no place in Jesus’ Church, since his movement is from all nations and peoples. Just as the worship of Jesus as Savior and Lord has no place in government.
      Whatever happened to the proper separation of state and church? We have forgotten the centuries of the Dark Ages, when the Roman Church accepted rulership over the Western part of the disintegrating Roman Empire, and secular Rome moved east to what became Constantinople.
      The conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine (praise the Lord, though he postponed his own baptism until near the end of his life, if my memory doesn’t fail me) was very much a mixed curse. He apparently forces his Legionaries into mass baptism by wading through a river? What happened to individual conviction, repentance and personal conversion as a result of learning about and from Jesus followed by baptism?
      The resulting merging of Christianity and the arm of the State, namely Rome, proved disastrous to the church. Instead of being persecuted from time to time by Imperial pagan Rome, now believers who came to disagree with new developments and practices imposed from the Roman Church were persecuted by supposedly fellow believers. And that marriage of the Christian church with the power of the State would persist for a good dozen centuries.
      Even the initial Protesting and Reformation movement, such as led by Luther and Calvin, were compromised by their own reliance on political powers to impose their views. Only later, led by Ababaptists and other subsequent reformers, did they rebel against relying on “Egypt” for either protection and/or enforcement.
      Unfortunately, even as groups such as the Puritans fled persecution into the new world, in particular what became the US, even they relied on the governor of Massachusetts, for example, to enforce their convictions.
      People like Roger Williams, initially himself a Puritan theologian, though later a Reformed Baptist, was banished from Massachusetts for spreading “new and dangerous ideas,” had to flee that colony and began the settlement of Providence Plantation in 1636 as a refuge offering freedom of conscience.
      Do we really want to go back to such times?

  6. Reblogged this on Foodforthethinkers's Blog and commented:
    “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing……. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.”
    Isaiah 40:15,17 – KJV

  7. I am an older retired bible-believing pastor. I have observed the ever-morphing activity prior to the “message.” Without a doubt so much of it is totally not worship nor is it Christ-honoring. I can only expect the unexpected where the “opening exercise” or “religious entertainment on the platform” is concerned. Don’t get me wrong. I do like some of the contemporary christian music, but I do not approve the diminishing of real true worship that truly glorifies the Lord and moves the heart to love of the Lord and gratitude for all He has done, is doing, and will do. My heart yearns for a genuine experience of worshiping in truth and in spirit. Not this fake and phony, shallow, superficial, emotionally-driven, pseudo-faith show we must endure for some fallacy called attracting and keeping the current generation and remaining “culturally relevant.” May the Lord Himself forgive us.

  8. All good Christians should be good citizens, but hyper-nationalism can easily morph into a blind idolatry that leads people to do terrible things. The German Christians had the same ridiculous enthusiasm in supporting WWI and WWII. Big, bad mistake. See Greg Boyd’s book THE MYTH OF A CHRISTIAN NATION. The same nonsense is in supporting Zionist antichrist so called Israel. People wake up. Get back to Jesus. https://www.amazon.com/Myth-Christian-Nation-Political-Destroying/dp/0310267315/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498598462&sr=8-1&keywords=greg+boyd+myth

  9. Another dog and pony show to entertain a congregation that is only able to take milk, not meat. The word does say that He will separate the sheep from the sheep. All pastors that are leading their flocks astray will answer in the end. It was also Sunday morning, a day set aside to worship the sun god, not the sabbath. God is the same today as he was yesterday and will be to come. He never changes. Worship days and processes are a tradition of man, which Messiah speaks about in Matthew. Satan comes as a wolf among sheep and even the elect are confused.

  10. Thanks for all of your comments on this. I realize many of you are new to The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog and thus are not reading this post in the larger context of my work here. Just a quick introduction. I am an evangelical Christian and American historian who teaches at Messiah College, a Christian college in central Pennsylvania. Messiah is rooted partly in the Anabaptist wing of Christianity. We do not fly a flag on campus because our founding denomination–the Brethren in Christ Church–believes that the Kingdom of God always takes precedent over the nation. I do not come from this Christian tradition, but I am sympathetic to a lot of it–especially on this issue. (We are also compromisers since we DO fly a flag in the gym because the NCAA requires it. 🙂 ) Moreover, I attend an evangelical megachurch in South Central, Pennsylvania. We do not fly a flag in the sanctuary. I assume that we do not do this for the same reasons we do not fly a flag at Messiah.

    • Perhaps you could fly a white flag of surrender above the government mandated one?

      I’ve also written about anti-state religious history from within the Churches of Christ: I need to follow it up with more history and specifically another article explaining libertarian soteriology. In our history, James Harding (whose legacy is Harding University) made this most clear in an article titled “The Kingdom of Christ vs. the Kingdom of Satan” arguing without compromise in 1903 that the governments of this world are the Kingdom of Satan, primary and eternal enemy of the Church.


      • When I taught in public schools we were encouraged (I never looked up if we were required) to have a US flag in the room for the optional morning pledge. I put a white surrender flag above it. When students asked why I had a surrender flag, “who are we surrendering to?” I’d tell them, “everybody surrenders to something.” That got them thinking. If they were more curious, which was rare, I would divulge that my religious beliefs spur me to pledge to something above the state.

    • John, i think the megachurch in south central PA you attend doesn’t do it for a different reason. although they may have originally had anabaptist scruples against it, their reason now is that they wish to be vigilant about removing any unnecessary obstacles between the completely uninitiated walk-in visitor and a relationship with Jesus

  11. I was prepared to accept your premise and read the supporting arguments, as I too have concerns along these lines. Reading on, the explanation was totally without nuance and instead resorted to disdainful sarcasm and speculative judgment. Where they may err on the side of idolatry, the author errs on the side of empty words without any worthy exhortation whatsoever.

      • I think you have been far to nice.
        What these people are actually worshiping is an imperialistic war mongering God that loves to take brown people’s resources and call them terrorist.

    • I think what Emily was saying was that she (and I as well) kept reading expecting that the post would offer clearly articulated reasons for the author’s position. I agree with the premise of the post. But I too would like to add greater insight to my current understanding.

      • Hi Sherman: Thanks for the note. Yes, this is a fair criticism of the post. I would just say that the post needs to read in the larger context of 8 years of blogging at The Way of Improvement Leads Home and other writing (including an entire book titled *Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction*). I welcome you to go back an read past posts. You can search for different themes in the “search” engine on the blog. I think I have a long track record of “articulating reasons” for the “premise of the post.” Thanks again for the comment!

    • Or we could just go to a place of divine worship that suits our taste and let the people of this worship community worship in the way they have chosen. Then we could be comfortable and they would…oh yea they already are comfortable. I am an Episcopalian of the Anglo-Catholic tradition. I am also an African American

    • Completely agree with you on this article. I too read it with an open mind but ended with sadness over the extreme judgement and unfounded presumptions of those in attendance. Interesting premise but marred by the author’s disdain.

  12. It seems to be a clear case of American folk religion taking hold.
    I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot lately. What if I were a Christian missionary from another country coming to America? What would I see as an innocuous influence of American folk beliefs on the church, and what would I see as completely antithetical? I say without hesitation that the service described above displays the later.

    • That’s what I am. I have been serving overseas in ministry for 9 years. For the last several years I’ve had a hard time coming back and visiting churches because I just don’t fit in. (My original home church split plus my family moved from that town.) This year was by far the worst experience I had.

      I visited a church that had flags lining the each side of the driveways every 10 feet. I sat in a service where we pledged allegiance to all the things (America, Christianity, the Bible), sang “America, the Beautiful”, sang other songs that we were about people than God, and listened to a special speaker. This special speaker (former military) talked more about that we should be proud to be Americans than he mentioned ANY reference to God. He basically also threw in some criticism for those who weren’t extremely proud to be an American. He was up there trying to convince us why to love America and in my head I was screaming “isn’t loving Jesus enough?!?!!?”
      As someone who lives among other cultures, I was incredibly uncomfortable from the time we pulled the car in. I was praying for help to ease my anxieties before I even got out of the car. I have never wanted to leave a church service more than last Sunday. I was fighting tears. I couldn’t imagine that that church was a place that could open its doors to visitors. I thought about all the kids that I minister to and laughed in my head because I surely wouldn’t have wanted to bring them to church with me that day.
      It was a tough day indeed. Just reminded me more and more that this isn’t where I belong–my place is on the field. But even more so my heart longs for my heavenly home.

  13. If being proud to be an American is idolatry, then I am guilty. Every. Day. The comments and views expressed in this article are a huge stretch, are a major part of the problem, and are, quite simply, ridiculous. Idolatry? Give me a break! And, by the way, I am not in the least a Trump supporter. I think he is an embarrassment. But for the time being at least, he is the President of the United States. Extremeism and fanaticism, of any type, seldom produce positive results.

    • Bob: Thanks for the response. I think you are confusing two things. I am proud to be an American as well. I am just skeptical of bringing patriotism and nationalism into the church. Call me old fashioned, but I believe that a church sanctuary–the place where we as Christians worship God–is a sacred space. NOTHING is more important than the worship of God, the celebration of the sacraments and the proclamation of the Bible in such a space.

      • If it were. Not for Christians in the beginning would America even exist. I dont think its a stretch to celebrate in a church setting what God has accomplished in and through this country.

      • I agree! You celebrate what GOD has done in your worship of HIM. That is the LORD’S requirement.

      • Back in the older days churches were also used as schools. Today they are used for weddings, funerals, graduations, etc. personally speaking I feel you can give God all the glory and honor our country without hesitation. I would not attend a church that did not display the American flag.

      • Yes, Mack, America would exist without the Christians, because it existed long before the Christians.

  14. If the whole point is to honor God, we can honor God whether we support Trump or don’t support Trump. If our principles consist of civility, patience, humility, balance, insight, and discernment, we can honor God by approaching politics with “humility, grace and reason.” (See Amy Black’s book: Honoring God in Red or Blue.)

      • Love thy neighbor? Just keeping this Christian… there is also a little thing called Judge not, lest ye be judged!

    • I’m not sure that Civility was ever touted by Jesus. (See Jesus in the Temple) Or by Old Teatament writers.

  15. So sick of all the negative! The service was wonderful! Why make such a fuss!! Be thankful. This article is just that negative! People need a change of heart only God can do that! This is Satan at work in our country and now it’s sifting to pastors and churches. It needs to stop! Satan is the enemy!

    • Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.

      Thou shalt have no false gods before me.

      Worship of the state is idolatry.

    • Indeed, that godless service at the first baptist was negative. Using religion to further your nationalistic pride is truly the devil’s work.

    • This article is not negative. It’s pointing out the clear idolatry in this church service. You are there to worship the King of Kings, not America.

    • Because confusing Sunday morning WORSHIP with a patriotic ralley is political, not religious! If you want to hold a patriotic ralley, do so, but not under the guise of WORSHIP.

  16. The First Amendment does not give you freedom of religion. It protects you from religion. Without the First Amendment we would have state-sponsored prayer in our schools.
    There is true and sincere prayer in our schools. It is silent and usually comes immediate after the teacher says, “Get out a piece of paper and your pen. We are going to have a test on last night’s math homework.”

  17. Both sides of this issue are becoming too religious which is eventually harmful. Neither way of viewing this issue is necessarily wrong, whether you celebrate the national day as special or disregard it, because the Lord makes each day alike – Paul wrote about such things in the Word of God. Both sides usually take their view too far. An easy way to test your own religious tendencies is to honestly ask yourself, “If the practices of my church/religion were to suddenly stop (i.e. bowing, kneeling, fireworks, reciting, eating, wearing religious garments, etc) would I be hurt or angry?” If you would be hurt or angry, you are religious and just need to recognize that every church goer has many religious tendencies (non Christian ones tend to have more), and many times those tendencies go too far and cause damage to someone’s relationship with The Lord Jesus Christ. The best advice – keep a check on your own religious tendencies and don’t judge someone else’s, then learn how to love and serve Christ with less religion (but still with ample church attendance). We will never do away with religion until the Lord returns, nor should we seek to abolish pure religion altogether as some in error do try.

    • You don’t realize that this article is about the separation of church and state, not about two differing views on religion?

    • False equivalency. Patriotic flag waving and nationalism is not a religion. If your church puts an emphasis on matinal pride, over the teaching of their spiritual prophets, you need to ask yourself a question. Is my God so weak as to support as nation of man on earth? Is my pastor a man of God, or a man power?

  18. Wouldn’t a reading of the Constitution have been more appropriate than flag waving? I have always had issues with the flag taking such symbolic prominence when it is actually the Constitution that enumerates and protects our rights.

    • I like the way Episcopalians do it. We have prayers for our country, maybe a sermon, and sing patriotic hymns which honor God, first. Patriotism is good, but not a replacement for God. And if your church needs pyrotechnics to enhance the service, you may want to hire a new preacher.

  19. To many people here with too much time. If you don’t like it, don’t attend or listen. Geesh

    • Disregarding wrongful teaching proliferates it. It’s healthy to have open discussions.

  20. The Christian Nation proclamation really gets under my skin. A Christian Nation could be expected to ACT Christlike, and by any measure, we fail miserably at that. The so called Christian Right gave up any moral high ground they might have claimed when they helped vote Trump into office.

  21. It’s not for me: but blurring the line between Christianity and nationalism dates back AT LEAST to Constantine. Since and I DO believe strongly in religious freedom, I was pretty offended by the way the article attacked First Baptist. You (the article’s author) weren’t there, and this isn’t your congregation, so who asked for your opinion? How ’bout I come to YOUR church this Sunday and write a column picking apart and questioning YOUR practices? Stay in your lane and get a life.

    • I’m not John Fea, but my response to you would be, I pay more taxes so the very rich and very tax-exempt First Baptist Church of Dallas can put on these extravaganzas. I think this is excessive and certainly not in the spirit of Matthew 25:31-46. –Deana M. Holmes

    • Your point illuminates why our founding fathers wrote the First Amendment. BECAUSE governments the world over chose the religion their citizens were allowed. The government then used that religion to control (and punish) the people.
      Even the early Colonists did that. In New England, taxes were paid to the Congregational Church.
      By ensuring that ‘the government shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion’ our founding fathers recognized the potential for their democratic experiment to avoid this pitfall.

    • In what way does Dr. Fea compromise the religious freedom of the congregants of First Baptist?

      They have the freedom to worship the nation-state. Dr. Fea has the freedom to critique their worship on the grounds of Christian theology and practice.

      The system works.

  22. I notice that they are all singing a song written by that lefty socialist Woody Guthrie.

  23. I have been a worship leader and designer for several years in United Methodist congregations in the Midwest and in North Texas. I cannot tell you how many people in angered by refusing to include patriotic songs in worship around Memorial Day and Fourth of July. Cost me my last position and it’s the reason I am not longer a united Methodist.

  24. I was a Southern Baptist for 60 years, but no longer. I am no fan of Jeffress for sure but this activity you detail here takes place every year around July 4 in Southern Baptist churches. I can attest to that. It doesn’t seem to have been added to as far as I can tell. They are, for sure, Trump fans, no doubt.

    • I was raised as a Baptist (GARBC) and we definitely sang patriotic songs on July 4th. We also had service members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, etc stand up so we could clap for them. I am not a Baptist any longer – and our KING isn’t AMERICAN. Our King doesn’t respect the Red or the Blue. Our King has the “Whole World in His Hands” 🙂 I don’t worship Donald Trump, I worship Jesus Christ.

  25. Flags, nationalism etc has no place in a church. We have separation of church and state and that means not only the state side but the church side of things. As a Mennonite, I (we) take serious not swearing oaths and for many of us that means not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, let alone flag waving and supporting any government entity as a church. Singing patriotic songs in church is idol worship. Sorry can’t get on board with this stuff.

    • Being a former Mennonite who no longer has a church to worship at/works on Sundays and a former Southern/American Baptist…used to work at the Falcon School District in Colorado Springs and refused to say the pledge and deal with this garbage. I was verbally attacked by another employee in front of a classroom of special education students because I was not willing to stand up and do this garbage. Because the teacher I was under refused to take care of this (as well as the teacher’s union I was a member of)…ended up leaving that school less than a week after the end of the school year. Was at an American Baptist church where this garbage also happened when the pastor was on vacation and they had a relief pastor who couldn’t do the service. Ended up giving up not going to church for a while after this one.

  26. If you claim to be a Christian and glorify America it is the same and anyone in scripture glorifying the Roman occupation of Isreal or glorifying being a Babylonian. How can you love a country that is oppressive to so many people and buiilt on exploitaion? You can enjoy or like things about this place sure but to celebrate it is in my opinion not Christ like.

    • I 100% agree! This country has exploited those it should protect and continues to do so. Just because there are worse countries does not make this one great.

  27. A good example off why I am no longer a Southern Baptists and why the denomination is a diminishing one.

  28. The Apostle Paul was known to claim his Roman citizenship. Nationality​ is important in both New and Old Testament. To just stay home is to ignore “foresake not the assembling together”…

    • Not sure what you mean here, Bill. I don’t think anyone is advocating Christians “staying home.” This seems to me to be an example of a Christian church using sacred space for the worship of the nation rather than God.

      • Why can’t they both be done? The Flag represents our freedom. If we didn’t have freedom, we wouldn’t have freedom of religion or be able to worship at all. I seriously doubt this will occur every Sunday. People just like to find something to have an issue with!

      • @Tanya: Why can’t both be done? Why can’t there be both the worship of Christ and the Nation? I know your phrasing is unintentional, but it is telling.

        Blogger and pastor Brian Zahnd recently wrote on this:
        “Many citizens of the Roman Empire directed their devotion to Rome through the veneration of the emperor. The cult of emperor worship was a personification of empire worship. The veneration of Caesar was mostly viewed as a patriotic gesture. To place a dash of incense in a censor before a bust of Caesar in the marketplace was roughly analogous to saluting the flag at a football game. It was an apparently innocuous gesture that was actually fraught with symbolic meaning.”

        “The most radical thing about the early Christians wasn’t that they worshiped Jesus as God. The Greco-Roman world was awash in gods. The radical and dangerous thing about the early Christians was that as they worshiped God in Christ they proclaimed Jesus as emperor! This is what they meant when they confessed, “Jesus is Lord.”

        “Titles like “Son of God,” “King of Kings,” “Savior of the World,” “Prince of Peace, “Lord of All” were already in circulation as imperial titles on Roman coins. When Christians began re-appropriating these titles in their worship of a crucified Galilean Jew it was a dangerous and provocative move.”

      • Worship of a nation… or… celebrating what God has done for and even through this nation?
        Thus nation wouldn’t exist were it not for the effort of Christian men in pursuit of godly beliefs. God has blessed this nation and this nation has done more to reach out in support of the disadvantaged throughout the world. It now is failing as men haved turned their backs on those godly principles that got us here.

        I am happy to take a few minutes on Sunday in a gathering of Gods people to celebrate what He has done for us.

        I do not attend First Baptist of Dallas, though I have visited.

      • Mack: Thanks for the post. I don’t have a problem with a few minutes of prayer for our country. In fact, I think we should be doing this in church. My beef is with an entire service devoted to patriotism. Forgive me for being so old fashioned, but I still believe Sunday morning is a sacred time where we devote ourselves to the worship of God and nothing else. You can be patriotic on the other six days of the week or even on Sunday afternoon at the 4th of July parade.

    • Paul used his Roman citizenship so that he could receive a proper trial. He would be foolish not to. You are taking that out of context.

    • No, nationally is absolutely not important in the church, at all. The whole book of Galatians was written to address the error of that idea. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female in the church. Both the Jew and Greek and slave and free aspects would be violated in the example in the article.

  29. Of course it’s idolatry. Not a few Christian-Americans want a manufactured paradise backstopped by a non-judging God.

  30. I love that they sang Woody Guthrie. Do you know Fred Trump, Donald’s father, was once Woody’s landlord. And Woody wrote a song about how racist he was?
    See here: https://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/01/25/woody-guthrie-sang-of-his-contempt-for-his-landlord-donald-trumps-father/
    Song lyrics here: http://woodyguthrie.org/Lyrics/Old_Man_Trump.htm

    I love that song, This Land Is Your Land, by the way. It would be my choice for a new national anthem, one that is easier to sing and not an ode to war.

  31. I think it is, indeed, uncommon. FBC Dallas has been a high profile congregation with a nationalistic agenda for as long as I remember. But it is not a typical service, not a typical church. I have been a Baptist all my life, and I never saw anything like this.

    • I once attended First Baptist Dallas as a guest. They want you to come meet the pastor after the service. You stand in a queue where someone takes your name and talks you up. As you get to the lounge where Jeffress is, there are 3 or 4 men standing with him. You are “presented” to the first man, who then announces you to the next one, and so on, until you are announced to Jeffress, like he is a royal. I’ve never seen anything like it. Not only do his parishioners treat him like royalty, he considers himself a royal. The whole service was a Pageant. I resigned my membership in the Southern Baptist church since the last election. This display doesn’t surprise me at all

  32. This is not so common. I’ve been at numerous services like this over the years. And in answer to your question in the post above, people think about Falwell when they think of Evangelicals because thoughtful scholars such as Stott don’t engender this type of following.

    Albert Schweitzer was right, people project their own cultural views onto the Bible, not the other way around. Whatever is taught from pulpits, today and in past centuries, has more to do with culture than whatever the authors of the Bible were teaching. People develop customs and ascribe it to a deity. That’s the Bible, plain and simple.

  33. The rural Appalachian Missionary Baptist Church I grew up in would hold a service like this that combined Christianity and American nationalism but it was usually in conjunction with the 4th of July. There would be a homily about how America was a “Christian Nation,” founded on Christian values and that we were the “new Israel” as God’s chosen country in the modern world. This was during the Cold War, so it didn’t seem that unusual to me as a youth.

    Now we have the occupant in the Oval Office working with the Russians on all sorts of nefarious deals. While Mr. Trump is no more of a Christian than my dog or cat, he has been able to manipulate a large number of Evangelicals to rally to his cause. Now we see Christian Dominionism being celebrated under the Cult of Personality established around Mr. Trump. We certainly live in interesting times.

    • I can tell that you have realized some of the errors of certain doctrinal falsehoods which you were told, however you cannot see inside someone’s heart to know whether that are a Christian or not. “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart.” You would be much better off to judge yourself as the Bible tells us and not to judge others, in fact to “judge nothing” in regards to people’s heart as the Bible says. Trump many times does not act like a Christian, but you don’t know him personally nor his heart nor where he is in his growth in the Lord. Only God does. Honor him as your authority, pray for him, and speak the truth of the wrongs you see in others but mostly in yourself.

  34. Reblogged this on Dallascernment and commented:
    I found myself once in the middle of something like this at a Sunday morning service at a relative’s church. I had left the Navy about five weeks prior, and they wanted veterans to stand up for their particular service anthems. I remained seated for “Anchors Aweigh.”

    Moreover, they managed to “churchify” the song. You see, there’s a line in the song that goes “Through our last night on shore, drink to the foam,” and they’re not talking about drinking ocean water. But the church had purchased music along with accompanying lyric video from some company, and they changed the offending lyric to “hail to the foam.” The church leadership itself was probably completely unaware of this.

    “Hail” to the foam? Really?

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