I want to start by saying the obligatory declaimer that I am an American, loyal, etc. and love my country, blah blah blah….
Today on this auspicious anniversary of what has become known as “the day that the world changed” (more on that later) I was driving past the headquaters of a not to be named but quite prolific book publishing company of a major denomination and I noticed the US flag flying at half mast. Nothing unusual there; and quite appropriate given the remembrance of the day.
Beside the US flag on another pole was the Christian flag also flying at half mast. From my vague remembrances of civics, I know that flags of sovereign nations are to fly at the same height, symbolizing their international equality, and the flags of the respective staes fly lower than the national flag, relfecting their subordinate status in the union. Of coure, my social studies classes didn’t cover protocol of the Christian flag.
Aside from whether or not a Christian flag should even exist, should it follow the rules of other flags? Should it be flown at half mast to mark a uniquely American event, and if it is, what does that say about the theology of those who would fly it thusly? Did those who made the decision view it as inappropriate that the Christian flag should fly higher than the US flag on a day of remembrance? Should the Christian flag ever fly at half mast, since we who are believing know that from the days of John the Baptist, the kingdom of God is advancing, continues to advance, and will advance until The Day? Perhaps though the Christian flag should always be at half mast because of the pervasive un-kingdom realities that are true throughout the world, indeed in our own hearts, and not just on September 11.
Why is it that this day should be the day the world changed? Is it because something happened to us? The world did not change when ten’s (or was it hundreds) of thousands of people died in the tsunami. Then again, that was a natural event. So then why did not the world change when the embassies in E. Africa were bombed and hundreds of embassy employees working for the US died? Perhaps because it did not happen here, and more likely because it happened to Africans. What does it say when an event which kills hundreds or thousands elsewhere doesn’t change the world, but an event which kills thousands here is declared to signal a paradigmatic shift in “the world?”
I am troubed by this, as an American, but more significantly, as a believer. Both the issue of the flag at half mast and the ways in which many of my brothers and sister of the faith blithely follow the line of reasoning that implies (if not outright states) that the lives of American people are more valuable, more significant, than the lives of any other people. I do not dismiss the tragic nature of the terrorist events of September 11, but neither do I support the notion that everything must now be redefined in light of those events. As a Christian, there are two world changing days; the day of Christ’s resurrection, and the day of his return. Until then the kingdom of God advances, and does not retreat; the flag of the kingdom of God is never half mast. Likewise the pervasive reality of sinful brokenness that leads to terrorist attacks, economic exploitation, personal sin and public vice are reasons why every day is a day of mourning for believers until He comes.
come quickly Lord!