Memorial Day is coming up. It’s always the last Monday in May. Will the holiday weekend have an effect on your Sunday church plans?
Scenario One: Some churches have nothing to do with American holidays. There will be no patriotic music this Sunday or any other day they meet to worship. There are no pictures of members that have died in the service, no displays of dog tags in the vestibule. Those churches do not have an American flag in the sanctuary nor flying on church grounds. Some Christians believe our allegiance cannot be divided between the Kingdom of God and anything else.
Scenario Two: American Jesus. Some churches proudly display Old Glory in their sanctuary 52 weeks a year. They will ramp it up on days like Memorial Day and 4th of July with flag banners and other patriotic/Christian decor. They will run red, white and blue bulletins with service members names listed in memorial. They will sing the National Anthem or some other patriotic montage as a choir special and the congregation will be led in saying the Pledge of Allegiance. You may see Jesus draped in the flag or Bible verses printed over flags, national cemeteries, etc. You will definitely get the sense Jesus drives a Chevrolet and buys American (and maybe even supports your 2nd amendment rights).
Scenario Three: Something in between. Like most issues, I fall into this category personally. I believe we can be good citizens and live in a way that glorifies God. We can honor brave men and women that fought and died for our nation without making patriotism our religion. It’s probably easier to do on Memorial Day than Independence Day. Our church has an American flag and a Christian flag in the sanctuary; those were there before I was called to pastor and will be there after I’m gone. But we don’t equate America with Christianity. Jesus is no more American then he is Russian or Chinese. We are to pray for all people (1 Tim. 2:1) including kings and queens (1 Tim. 2:2). We can render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s in keeping with Christ’s command. We are citizens of a nation AND pilgrims and strangers in this world. We are called to respect the laws of our land until they conflict with the Law of God. At this point in history we still have the freedom and liberty to do both without conflict (most of the time).
Images of Jesus draped in the flag, crosses with stars and stripes, flags with scripture superimposed; these things set off the Michael Spencer voice in the back of my head that I will never be able to get rid of. I believe we can be good Christians and celebrate our national identity at the same time if we are careful. The Gospel plus anything isn’t the Gospel anymore. We need to avoid creating a hybrid Christian-American theology. Patriotism is one thing, nationalism is another. Jesus came to seek and to save people made in God’s image from every tribe, tongue and nation.
Memorial Day honors men and women that died for America. Christian worship honors one man who died for all people everywhere.
Post Script: Let me add that at no time of the year do we forego having church for a ceremony, celebration, awards program, etc. I will preach a Gospel message from the Word of God on Sunday morning just like on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the week of July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We might mention or recognize mothers, graduates, etc. but not to the extent we skip church and spend that hour doing something else.