By C. Anthony Dailey
As a way of celebrating true liberty, my family raised our first outdoor Christian flag this Fourth of July. Now, on our pole hangs an American flag and, below it, the Christian flag. The order was very deliberate with a message from my family to all who observe it: We are "Romans 13 Christians."
I used this flag-raising event as a lesson for my children and others of our family commitment to Christ, the liberty God has given us and our reasonable commitment to civil authorities. Our family message seems a little different than the message offered by some of my fellow Christians. I have been aware of this alleged "Christian conflict" over flying the American flag above the Christian flag long before we raised ours. This is why a recent story grabbed my attention.
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As WND reported, in North Carolina, Pastor Rit Varriale of Elizabeth Baptist Church claims that God "laid on [him] that He [God] is first," and strangely Pastor Varriale took this to mean he should place the Christian flag above the American flag. The intended message is that God is first. I, too, agree that God is first. Who walking on American soil does not know that Christians teach and believe that God comes first, before country, before family, before everything? However, I see a different message being communicated: that individual and ecclesiastical authority should unjustly usurp civil authorities.
"Our typical flag etiquette is to have the American flag above the Christian flag. But when you stop and think about it, it should be our commitment to God first, then our commitment to country," said Pastor Varriale. In response, I ask: Is it OK to fly an Islamic flag above the American flag? What about a Satanic flag? Why stop there? Why not a Russian flag or a Mexican flag? The message embedded in this wholly symbolic flag order controversy is civil anarchy: If you don't personally like the rules you can disobey them.
Did Pastor Varriale consider that abiding by the U.S. Flag Code, which the civil authorities have rightful jurisdiction over, is an act of putting God first? And that disobeying this non-life threatening symbolic code is actually disobedience toward God? We are to subject to all governing authorities: family government, church government and civil government. What if my daughters, against my authority, decided they didn't like Dad's respect for civil government and went out in the middle of the night and reordered our two flags: Am I to praise their "putting God first" by placing the Christian flag above the American flag, or should I correct them for their willful disobedience of my rightful authority? A reasonable person will answer the latter.
God desires that we reasonably subject ourselves to civil rulers as an act of obedience to God Himself. It is only under very limited exceptions that Christians are permitted by God to disobey civil authorities. Certainly, He doesn't expect us to submit to a tyrannical government any more than He demands a child to submit to a parent molesting them. But, an issue over a symbolic flag is hardly a reason to even give the appearance of resistance.
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Sometimes Christians get so caught up in their superstitions that they temporarily suppress the mind of Christ – like not throwing a worn Bible away because it's a "Bible"; or not sitting another book on top of a Bible because supposedly that's a symbol of disrespect; or allowing our conscience to be bothered over the order of a flag display. Let's be a good Christian by being a good citizen. And if we must disobey evil civil authorities, then by God resist! Don't offer symbolic resistance, resist for real if it's called for!
This symbolic defiance over the order of the Christian flag is not honoring God; rather, it is dishonoring Him as well as the civil authority for which the American flag stands. God demands righteous obedience to just civil authorities. It is true that American civil authorities are not wholly just, but they have not done anything unjust in regards to the flying of the Christian flag. Therefore, we should honor their authority to regulate the symbolism of the flag order and raise both the American and Christian flag as prescribed. To do otherwise is unnecessarily antagonistic. In this way, we communicate to the world that we Christians are honorable people and good citizens who do not desire to usurp civil authority. Instead, we desire to work with them to the extent we can.
C. Anthony Dailey writes at Cell92.com, a conservative, Christian-based project addressing political, theological and philosophical controversies of world culture.