Monday morning, September 25, 2017, we are bombarded again with reports & articles about what grown men are doing when the National Anthem is being played. Men & women from all parts of the country are debating, arguing, tweeting (including myself) & venting about what is appropriate - Stand, Kneel, Sit, Walk around, eat a banana, wear your hat, eyes closed...you get the idea.
Now in all fairness, I consider myself pretty patriotic. My grandfathers were both veterans in the military during war time. Some of my extended family served for various lengths of time in the armed forces. My father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and a Chaplain for more than 20 years. He was no stranger to combat - serving twice in the Gulf Wars. I grew up around the military; I wore proudly as a kid my own pair of fatigues & jump boots (82nd Airborne), watching the pomp and circumstance, the honor & dignity that the soldiers showed, & even today my favorite football day is the Army-Navy Game (Go Army Beat Navy!).
I understand much of the frustration that many are having in regards to professional athletes & their response to the playing of the National Anthem. I have also been particularly fascinated with the response of many Christian patriots: the disgust for the athletes, the rhetoric of anger & hostility towards those who share a different opinion. The idea that someone could dishonor, show disrespect or show disunity has gotten many just plain spitting mad.
But I can't help contemplate a level of hypocrisy from many followers of Jesus on this matter. I hear the rants: "show respect & honor", "you are spitting on the graves of the armed forces" or "if you don't like it just leave the country". But how many of these same Christian patriots consistently & intentionally show dishonor & a lack of respect to King Jesus: those who sit in services on Sunday refusing to open their mouths & lift up praise to King Jesus because they "don't sing". Or those who can not put down their phones & turn off Facebook for 45 minutes to listen to a message from scripture by their pastor. What about those who can't seem to find the discipline to arrive to a service on time, ready to engage, fellowship, & grow in Christ. Or those who take their commitment to Christ and his local church (membership for some of you) as something expendable & passing so that the first time they hear something they don't like they are off to another church or no church at all. What about the Christian who defends the President of the United States when he calls men (of all races) "sons of b....." or the Christian who calls the president a card carrying member of the KKK (do we no longer read our bibles well enough or at all to know such dishonor & disrespect is forbidden in the Old & New Testaments). What about the 18 year old Christian who does not respect & honor his parents, boss, teacher, or for that matter Jesus when he/she cheats, gets drunk, lies, worships money or has sex outside of marriage. Or the husband (or wife) who has shown dishonor to his/her spouse with laziness, anger, un-forgiveness or marital affairs. What about those who spit on the cross & the empty tomb when they continue to engage in the very sin that Jesus died to cover & gave them the power of the spirit to overcome.
I guess what I am struggling with is why many are in an uproar the over disrespect of the flag while simultaneously showing dishonor, disrespect & un-allegiance to the name of Jesus, the cross or their local church. Remember, even while we are Americans, as Russell Moore says, we are Americans best when we are not Americans first. Our ultimate true allegiance is not a to a flag but to a King; it is not to a country but to a kingdom; it is not to the Star Spangled Banner but a new anthem of Heaven: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5) . It seems many followers of Jesus in America are not Christian Americans but rather American Christians and their ultimate allegiance is bound up in the flag & a political party rather than the cross & the Kingdom of Christ.
The whole battle of the anthem as it were is probably not going to end soon. There are people on both sides of the issue who are raising the stakes with dishonesty, misrepresentation & over generalization that makes a real dialogue almost impossible. Even the NFL can not make up its mind: "we want our players to exercise their rights as citizens to protest" & then figuratively crucify a player who exercised his right NOT to protest (Look up Pittsburgh Steelers for more). Church, is this really a battle we should dig our heels in on. Should we be leading the charge to vilify the protestor even if we think they are wrong. Should we be mocking the athlete or laughing at vulgarity coming from Pennsylvania Avenue. Are there not much more pressing issues we should be concerned about as followers of Jesus: like sharing the gospel of Jesus (not America) with every man, woman & child we have the privilege of meeting, knowing or interacting with; or serving the elderly couple of widow in our church by inviting them over or out for dinner; or pursuing to know Jesus as our greatest treasure (even greater than the National stamp on our passport.
Continue to show proper etiquette for the National Anthem & the flag: stand or salute or place your hand over your ears as the American Flag passes you; hold it there until the last note of the Anthem is played or sung, stand for & give attention to the national anthems of other nations as well but let's start taking seriously what it means to honor Christ & his kingdom right now too. At the end the day as much as I love my country (and I do), as much as I show respect for our flag & our anthem & the men & women who fought for it (and I do - thanks Dad), as much as I sing with joy our national anthem (and I do - usually in full harmony) & hope that the freedom it represents will continue for generations to come; I want to be more concerned that the Mexicans, Iranians, Indians (which ever kind you think of first), Germans, British, Japanese, & yes even North Koreans will learn to sing a better anthem ("Worthy Is The Lamb"); to recite a greater pledge ("I believe Jesus is the Christ"); to become citizens of a better kingdom (The Kingdom of Christ) and to find their identity in a greater leader (King Jesus).
One day soon Jesus will gather people of all nations, languages, flags & anthems around his throne - some will bow in worship before the Savior King; others will bow in submission to a conquering King - but all will see clearly that there is only one allegiance that really matters. Maybe we should make a little more clearly where our allegiance lies even now. I know where mine lies (Follower of Christ, Husband, Father, Friend, Pastor, Son, Son-in-law, Grandson, American)....Do you?!?