Today marks the 241st annual 4th of July celebration. On this day, it seems fitting to ask the question, what exactly are we celebrating today? Americans everywhere (on the streets, in their homes, on social media) will be decked out in red white and blue. Our flags will be waving, but what exactly do we see when we see an American flag waving? Or perhaps the question is, what ought we to see?
My fear is that when we take off our American flag hipster party glasses and put down our red solo cups, we might not like what we see. My fear is that when we notice the white sand between our toes is lacking any red or blue, we bury our heads in it. My fear is that after declaring ourselves independent from the British, we are now trying to be independent from something else. Or should I say Someone else?
Douglas Wilson wrote a helpful blog that has had a huge influence on how I view the American flag and the sea of red, white, and blue that I am drowning in. In his blog The Crimson Carnage, Wilson exposes the inconsistency of the perspectives and interpretations we often apply to symbols. The focus of Wilson’s blog is the Confederate flag. Wilson points out that when we look at the confederate flag, we see racism and slavery. Why? Well, because under that flag many racists supported the legalization of an awful kind of slavery. Under that flag, horrors were committed. But notice that we don’t apply that same standard to the flag that overtook it. We don’t apply that standard to our nations flag, the one on everyone’s T-shirt today.
When we look at that flag, we see what it “stands for.” We don’t attribute our current national sins to that flag. We eat America’s meat and spit out her bones, yet, no other symbol receives that courtesy.
Wilson reminds us that while we look back at those nasty, racist confederates in Charleston, those men can shake their heads at us, too. The idea that we have finally gotten somewhere in history, that only those in the past have sins up to their eyeballs has to stop; the blinders need to come off. Perhaps when the firework smoke settles, we might see what we are and what we are becoming. What exactly should we see in the American flag? How should we celebrate this holiday as Christians?
When we speak of evaluating the flag and the holiday itself, applying the right perspective is key. Perspective is everything. For example, according to King George, what was this day in 1776? Was it a momentous break-through for human liberty? No, from the British perspective, this was treason. It was rebellion. To us the founding fathers are the epitome of patriots, while to the British, they are prime examples of traitors. Why support the revolution then? Because there is an objective standard above governments. That is why.
Even those who reject God are still willing to admit that it’s possible for a government to do bad things. It’s possible that a government can pass a bad law or amend the Constitution in a bad way. How could this be possible if the Constitution is the highest authority? What standard could possibly be above the Constitution or the government by which we appeal to in order to judge the constitution and the government?
To admit the government can err is to reveal the suppressed belief that God exists. This is why many of the founding fathers who were not Christians didn’t oppose the idea that our most fundamental rights are “endowed by our Creator.” If their is no creator, than government is god, and the founding fathers sinned against their government. The Fathers needed God to justify their actions.
It’s a shame our nation has lost that.
The problem is though, once we apply the appropriate biblical frame to our history books and to the news reports today, it’s hard to find much to celebrate.
The flags we swing in the air are swinging above the chopped-up, bloodied corpses of over 50 million Americans (Statistics About Abortion). What’s important to note, is those dead babies buried in the grounds beneath us (or stuffed in the trash cans beside us) were put there legally. That is why the flag is part of that. If one sick mass murderer makes his way around the country and kills hundreds of people, we don’t attribute that to the flag because the nation didn’t condone that.
But abortion is legal. Millions of Americans are murdered by the government and by american individuals who support, promote, and vote for that behavior. Our government allows it, and our people vote for it. How can we not separate the flag from this holocaust? I read a post the other day that said “the red on the flag represents the blood of the soldiers who died for it.” I don’t know how much historical accuracy that holds, but the metaphor is well received. And since I don’t want to come across as an “anti-troops” advocate, I love the sentiment. I will get to that soon. However, the soldiers blood is in much company, because our flag is dripping in baby blood. Dripping.
Those dripping flags are hard to see because, recently, they have been replaced with rainbow flags. But that’s a horse I have beaten to death recently.
I also won’t get into talk about our national debt. I mean why should we? It’s only our children who will suffer for that (the ones we let live that is). Why even bother?
[Some may read this and consider me unpatriotic. I don’t think that is true. I consider myself a patriot. However, it is not a title that I am afraid of; we can’t control the labels some force on us sometimes, and if that one is forced upon me than so be it. For the same apostle who said it is the “will of God” (1st Pet. 2:15) to “Be subject for the Lord’s sake, to every human institution… (13)”, is the same apostle in Acts 5 who said “We must obey God rather than men” (29). This was after a direct command from God to preach and a direct command from a human institution not to. Christians do submit to human authorities but that submission has boundaries. In fact, we submit to the authorities because our Authority (God and His Word) tells us to, making it of necessity, a higher authority. Jesus Himself taught this idea in Mark 12:17 when He said “Render to Caeser the things that are Caeser’s, and to God the things that are God”. The government does own things, but they don’t own everything. And when they try to take the things they ought not to own, my duty toward them ceases, as Jesus instructed. Thus, the Constitution is not the highest law of the land for me. The Bible is. This is what made the Christians in the 1st Century “a threat”. Not because they were the violent vigilantes Nero painted them to be, but because they served something higher than their government. Their ultimate allegiance was not to their nation. Their ultimate allegiance was to no flag and no symbol. That is why I don’t fear the “unpatriotic” name tag that the 1st century Christians earned, for my ultimate allegiance is not to this country and it never will be.]
Now, don’t forget, this is a biblical perspective. People who reject the Bible had a lot to celebrate today. When they see dead babies inside a Planned Parenthood they don’t see dead babies; they see the practice of reproductive liberty. When they celebrate abortion they celebrate liberty. When they look at gay marriages they don’t see the profanation of a holy institution, the celebration of sin, or the promotion of a dangerous and damning lifestyle to them and their neighbors. When they look at gay marriages, they see marriage equality.
This country was founded on establishing independence from a monarchical king, to ensure liberty and equality. And to many, our nation has continued in that idea by further establishing more “liberty” (abortion) and more “equality” (gay marriage). But that revolution has been achieved by declaring independence from a different kind of King entirely. This one is perfect and righteous and judges the hearts of men.
This is a post-christian nation. Thus, post-Christian people have much to celebrate. I would argue that Christians don’t have quite as much. Is there anything a Christian can celebrate? Absolutely. Let me say that again: absolutely! I say that while intentionally wearing red, white and blue. The fact remains that this country still has much to celebrate. Let’s start with the troops.
As I said, I don’t mind being labeled unpatriotic. But I do mind being labeled anti-troops. It is possible to have good biblical reason to be against certain military actions. I would certainly hope German Christians in the early 1940’s were anti-troops. If our troops were anything like those, I would wear the name-tag proudly. I would even laminate it. However, I don’t believe we have that. I believe that although some stories can be dug up about atrocities American troops have committed, I believe that the troops who have fought for America from the revolutionary war, to the civil war, to the present day, have overall been good men and women who have fought bravely for noble purposes. I believe that my freedom to write this post comes from the sacrifices of brave Americans who fought for it. And our troops, all who are and have served deserve nothing less than my admiration, gratitude, and support. God bless the troops.
In light of all of our sins and losses of liberty, including the coming losses of liberty not yet seen, America is a good place for Christians to live. I am certainly thankful for growing up here. I would prefer it over Uganda, or North Korea, or Egypt, or China, or anywhere in the Middle East. And even among nations that aren’t as hostile to Christians as the ones mentioned, I would still prefer America. Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and many other European nations are simply ahead of the curb. Outrageous secular humanism, toppled with socialism, combined with theological liberalism makes these places frustrating to say the least. Pastors are being fined in those nations, street preachers are being arrested in those nations. I prefer America. We are not a nation in poverty, we have medicine available, and we possess loads of accessible comforts and entertainment right at our fingertips. We should be very thankful to live in America. Yes, it is good to be an American.
Now some may be confused. I spoke poorly of America and I spoke positively. What am I trying to communicate? What’s my point? What do I want you to do with this? Should you celebrate the 4th of July or not? How should you look at the flag?
Here is my answer: I leave that to you to decide.
That is at times a biblical way to go about things (Romans 14). I don’t think anyone on either side is in sin. However, let me phrase the question this way: would how you view July 4th be different provided you became an American Christian in 1860? As you walked past the flag waving on your porch to put the burgers on the grill during your plantation party, and you looked at your neighbor and saw his “negro” slave working the fields, would that change your perception of the holiday from where it is today? Would that change your perception of the flag? Perhaps not. Perhaps you see something other than a nation’s sin in a flag. Perhaps you see what a nation should be. Perhaps you see troops, sacrifice, and many other amazing things. And that’s just fine.
However, if you see liberty, I would ask, does your neighbor’s slave see liberty? And today, does the Planned Parenthood victim of “women’s liberty” see any liberty themselves? There are 50 millions Americans today who won’t be celebrating liberty with us, because America decided they didn’t deserve to. All of whom I might add are and were your neighbors.
When you walk outside into the sunlight for your cookout, look at your neighbor and see who isn’t there. Look past the two men kissing and the two women adopting children. Look past the trillions of dollars our government hasn’t paid back, look past the hundreds of pages of laws, the corrupt politicians, the government agencies who spread anti-biblical nonsense, the corruption of the public education system, the divorces, the drug use, the gender confusion, the obsession of sex, the common and casual vile language, the churches folding on biblical issues, the blasphemy, and look right into the eyes of the Americans who aren’t there.
No matter what you see in the flag, don’t let today be a day of only celebration and no prayer. Don’t allow it to be a day of only joy and no remorse. Pray for our nation. Pray for repentance.
Do celebrate that we have declared independence from an unrighteous king, but do lament that our nation is furthering their agenda to declare independence from a much different kind of King, a holy and righteous King, one from whom independence can’t be achieved, and He is a King whose wrath against rebellion and disobedience manifests itself much more severely than red coats and musket balls.