I am the king's good servant, but God's first.
-- Saint Thomas MoreIt is easy to find Protestant churches, like the one that owns these flags, making the opposite declaration: "We are God's good servants, but the State's first." No doubt this is mostly a matter of thoughtlessness, but objectively speaking, this is idolatry.
Ironically, the same churches that fly the "Christian flag" (which only dates back to 1907, and which most Christians worldwide would not recognize -- not even in the sense of knowing what it is supposed to represent) underneath the US flag accuse the Catholic Church of idolatry for having statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and other Saints. Those, you see, are graven images and are prohibited in the Ten Commandments. The seated statue in the Lincoln Memorial? The faces of presidents on coins? Don't ask -- you're not supposed to notice those. A Catholic with a statue of St. Francis in his garden is committing idolatry, these churches would say; one of their own number with a statue of a gnome in his garden is not. A Catholic with a statue of the Blessed Virgin on his mantel is committing idolatry; a Protestant with a small copy of the Statue of Liberty on his mantel is not.
Sorry, but the essence of idolatry is to put something else on par with or above God Himself, and that is precisely the symbolism of flying the US flag above the "Christian flag". It makes sense to fly the US flag over a corporate flag (which some companies have) because federal law supersedes company policies. It makes sense to fly the US flag over state and city flags because it signifies that (at least since 1865) the authority of the federal government is greater than that of any more local form of government. Flags of foreign governments may be flown either a little beneath the US flag (on a different pole) or at the same level, to show that the USA is neither a part of anyone's empire nor anyone's client state. But to fly the US flag over the "Christian flag"?
At this point, of course, the Protestant American will say (I have had this conversation before), "But the Flag Code says that nothing may be flown above the US flag! The law says that the US flag must be given the greatest honor!" There are several problems with this objection.
- The Flag Code does not supersede the US Constitution. Since the Supreme Court has ruled that even burning a US flag is protected by the First Amendment, it is certainly permissible to fly the "Christian flag" above the US flag as a statement of religious conviction.
- There is no requirement to fly the US flag at all in your churchyard. If you were to fly the "Christian flag" alone on a pole, the controversy would not arise.
- Similarly, no religious body I know of holds that it is imperative to fly the "Christian flag". Many chose to do so, but they see it as an optional symbol, not a necessary one. If only the US flag were flown, the controversy would again disappear.
- Perhaps the best solution would be to fly only the US flag, but to top the flagpole with a cross. This avoids any idea suggestion that Church and State are competing for the same type of authority.
- We've been down this road before. At one point it was the law that everyone must worship the "divine Caesar". Failure to do so could result in death, but real Christians refused nonetheless. If American Protestants are willing to render greater honors to the US government than to God even when the Supreme Court says they don't have to, how can they expect to stand when a persecution begins?