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Integration, Part 3


This is part 3 of the post “Integration” in which we are applying Ephesians 2:11-13 by answering the question, What are some divisions that we face which are contrary to the gospel? In the first post we discussed corporate applications, the second covered some personal ones and this post will cover one cultural area for us in the American South.

Are we going to sing “God Bless America” on American Independence Day weekend?

Recently, through my son’s soccer training, I have begun to develop some friendships with some great people from South Africa. In casual interaction, most people wouldn’t notice a huge cultural difference between us and them. But there are some clear distinctions which vary from what foods we like to what traditions we celebrate.

I wondered, as I have before, how a South African ex patriate would worship in any of many southern churches on one of the Sundays or weekends (Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, etc.) in which we celebrate America?

I asked this question as our country approached September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary  of the the devastating attacks on our country which took so many lives and stole loved ones from untold numbers of families. The day fell on a Sunday and many Christian worship services took the tone of remembering the fallen and celebrating the red, white and blue.

So, why don’t we do something like that at CrossLife? In fact, why don’t we have an American flag in the auditorium, why don’t we sing patriotic songs, and why don’t we have major events to honor the military on Memorial Day or Independence Day?

I believe all these questions are connected. I have three reservations related to displaying an American flag and singing patriotic songs during worship services, which can apply to honoring the military as well, perhaps to a lesser degree.

  1. We are first Christians, not Americans. The gospel and the Church is international. A national symbol seems out of place in a corporate gathering of God’s people where we celebrate the unity we enjoy because of the gospel, not because of America (Ephesians 2). Placing a national symbol or using our services to celebrate America can be an unnecessary stumbling block to those in our church who are not citizens or natives of this country.
  2. We are first members of God’s family, not members of a political party. The singing of patriotic songs and the prominent display of the flag is more characteristic of republicans instead of democrats. Again, political party is not our concern here. Therefore, it would seem to feed those divisions rather than the unity we enjoy through Christ. Glorifying the military can also fall into a political disagreement.
  3. We are first citizens of heaven, not citizens of the great South. A more local concern I have would be the combination of God and country that pervades so much of southern church culture. I believe this has led to some confusion regarding where our allegiance and the source of truth actually lies.

Having said all that, we are so grateful to God for our country and for the men and women who have given their lives to secure our freedom. The best hope for the Christian is freedom. This is true of earthly freedom from government intrusion as we worship Jesus Christ and speak the gospel to the lost. And this is true of eternal freedom which we enjoy because Jesus has addressed the evil and suffering of this world by giving himself for sinners.