Flags of the Heart (The Real Problem)

I’m an Anabaptist pastor. So I’m not a big fan of flags, certainly not as a sticker on my car or sitting on the stage meant for the worship of Jesus.

I left the Southern Baptist Convention largely because of its love affair with politics, flags, and nationalism. You can read about that here.

Our last SBC church was in Texas, but it wasn’t the Confederate flag that was the problem. It was the American flag–the flag that flew over a racist, genocidal nation a hundred years before what is known as the “Civil War” between the “Union” and the Confederacy.

I understand the desire to want to respond to the AME church shooting in Charleston, SC with a boycott movement to rid the country of the Confederate flag, so proudly worn by the racist who killed the beautiful people who welcomed him into their congregation. We want to do something. I get it.

We can exorcise a flag simple enough.

While I don’t accept the official story of the glorious North defeating the evil South, and that the Confederate flag represents racism, anymore than the American flag, at this point, it should come down because of its current offensiveness to our black brothers and sisters. We owe it to them.

But here is the thing. Why do we not find the American flag equally, if not more, offensive? In the 239 years of US history, there has only been about 20 years of peace. We now profit from war. Therefore, we’re seeing more of it.

The US military-industrial complex and her flag has been on a slow march of imperialism since the very beginning.

We expect that of empires, but not of the church. What’s most disturbing to me is that the US flag is worshipped in thousands of churches every year around the sacred 4th of July, while drones around the world kill innocent men, women, and children for “freedom” and justice. Does this not offend you?

And why is it that nobody seems to be bothered that the US Flag Code says it’s a living thing. Yes, you read that correctly. Give it a look. Let it sink in.

Folks, the American flag is an idol. If this isn’t idolatry and offensive, nothing else should be. There are rednecks all across the South who are saying the same thing some of you patriots want to say, “But that’s not what it means to me!”

Sure. Right. OK. That one doesn’t fly (pun intended) with me. Simply put, both flags suck. They both are full of meaning, the good, the bad, and the ugly. As Christians, we don’t need them. So let’s be consistent.

Where am I going with this post?

As I surveyed my Facebook newsfeed this morning, I thought, What if we all repented of our sins and the darkness within us with as much fervor that goes into protesting flags and boycotting other “evil” products? Both sides of the political isle do this believing that it will somehow change things in their favor. But it seldom has the intended result. The real problem still remains.

I do understand the power of symbols, but I think attacking, even destroying symbols, can merely give the illusion that the evil has been removed from us.

In reality we’re all flying flags of the heart that can’t be eradicated by legislation, protests, and social media outrage. It might make you feel better, like you’re making a real difference, but I have serious doubts about that. Real change goes much deeper, down into the human heart.

This is why “social justice” without Christ’s call to repentance is just humanitarian work, not the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Christ alone has the lasting power to transform the human heart.

Let’s do the hard work of repentance and root out the sin that begins in the hearts of men and women, beginning with your heart. One is the way of Christ, the other can be a cheap substitute, a religious show of self-righteous emotion. One is the root cause, the other is just symptomatic of the real problem.

Now go hug your neighbor and pray for your enemy, and tell them that you’re working to take down the flags of the heart. Because Jesus wants you to do it.

David D. Flowers, 2015.

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About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 15 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Virginia. View all posts by David D. Flowers

13 responses to “Flags of the Heart (The Real Problem)

  • Joshua B

    David,

    Great thoughts. I think my greatest issue is that a governmental body flies a flag that is so divisive. I understand some people’s desire to have a confederate flag but it doesn’t mean it should be waving in the same air space as the nations flag.

    JB

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Joshua, I too have long been confused how the “Union” ever allowed the flag to be flown. But as I point out in my post, believers particularly ought to be concerned with what all flags represent, and how our Kingdom is flagless.

  • Amy Rowe

    David,
    Great post. Our family and friends look at us sideways when we show concern over too much attention to the flag. We must think about whatever our idols may be and ask for divine revelation as to how we are to rid ourselves of these things in our lives.

  • Wynann Pesnell Martin

    IT IS NOT WHAT WAVES OVER YOUR HOUSE IT IS WHAT IS IN YOUR HEART!

  • Darryl Klassen

    I concur! As an Anabaptist from the Great White North, I have never understood the veneration given to the flag by evangelical Christian Americans. Thanks David for articulating a Christlike response

  • Sean Durity

    I agree with your points about the idols we hold in our hearts being stronger than the symbols we seek to destroy. It is too easy to say we did something just by dealing with a symbol. But I continue to be baffled by your vehement objection to the US flag. Like Daniel, I will seek to serve in my current country as a good citizen, unless my higher calling as a citizen of heaven demands a different obedience. They are not always at odds.

    • David D. Flowers

      Thanks, Sean. I think being a faithful “Daniel” is actually to see yourself as an exile living in Babylon, not eating her foods and bowing down to her idols. While you may want to push back against my challenging your obvious sense of patriotism, can you see how I think you’re not taking the Daniel idea more seriously? Be a good citizen. Yes! But leave a love of Babylon and her idols out of it. I’d be interested to hear your response to the fact that the US flag is considered a living thing by the government.

      • Sean Durity

        I will agree that is an odd part of the flag code (section 8, paragraph j) which is not explained any further. But I do not see how it is an idol. It is a symbol for the United States.

        We are citizens of two countries – the U.S. and God’s Kingdom. And, yes, it feels more and more like we are exiles in Babylon. However, there is room for “dual citizenship.” Daniel faithfully served in Babylon, though you are correct that he made sure to keep himself distinct from the culture. Paul was a Roman citizen and enjoyed his rights as such. And the early church stayed within the Roman Empire, evil as it mostly was. History and the Scriptures are clear, though, that there are times when Caesar demands to be lord. Or the king requires our worship. That is the direction earthly kingdoms often choose. In those times, we must stand for God regardless of the personal consequences. I believe that those times may be coming in America, too.

        However, I still choose to honor what has made America great. I honor the men and women who fought and died for our freedom. I honor the freedom and righteousness that we embrace at our best. And I honor the people of God in America who have sent the largest group of missionaries across the globe. And I pray that God would send another great awakening in our nation.

  • Jim Williams

    David,
    Do you think what isis is doing is right, Killing thousands of religious people because they hate them or don’t believe in what they stand for .
    Things like this is why we go to war, we as a God loving & strong country stop cold-hearted things that threaten the world with violence & destruction, in my opinion if the USA didn’t go to war most the time we would be living in hell right now. The flag is just a symbol of the USA, just like the Cross is a symbol of that religion & GOD. If the world was a peaceful one there would be no war & no violence, Then we would call it Heaven & that day is coming. AMEN

  • reachingforthesummit

    If the flag fly’s in the churches, is that not separating church and state?

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