Quakers

Hot Trump-era issue: Should national flags or patriotic songs be allowed in church?

Hot Trump-era issue: Should national flags or patriotic songs be allowed in church?

THE QUESTION:

Should national flags be displayed, or patriotic songs be sung, during Christian worship?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

This issue comes to mind amid the seasonal fuss over professional football players’ political protests during the pregame National Anthem. Not to mention veterans organizations’ indignation when non-veteran Donald Trump temporarily refused to lower the White House flag to half-staff in honor of the late prisoner of war John McCain.

Considering the emotions in such secular situations, it’s unsurprising that the perennial religious questions above continually provoke lively comment on the Internet and elsewhere. Some weeks ago, a friend in The Religion Guy’s own congregation (Christian Reformed) asked why we don’t display the American flag up front like other churches do. I didn’t know but that brought to mind other situations.

The Guy’s daughter was flummoxed by a Southern Baptist service in North Carolina on a July 4th weekend. It began with a military color guard marching forth with the American flag, whence the worshipers recited the Pledge of Allegiance. She asked the old man, isn’t Christian worship about a different allegiance?

The Guy is familiar with an evangelical summer camp that parades the U.S. flag along with other nations’ flags at worship to symbolize foreign missions. The ceremony gives Old Glory prominence above the other flags, which disregards protocol in federal law and military regulations requiring equal respect.

The Guy has visited innumerable churches that give the U.S. flag the place of ceremonial honor to the pastor’s right with the Christian flag (a 1907 American invention) relegated to the left.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Must reporters take a man at his word? UK paper caught in a 'Quaker' conundrum

Must reporters take a man at his word? UK paper caught in a 'Quaker' conundrum

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master -- that's all.”

-- From "Through the Looking Glass," by Lewis Carroll

A story in a local newspaper in the U.K. caught my eye this week, raising questions on the nature of truth and the craft of journalism.  

The news that the Rev. Philip Young was standing for election to Parliament in the forthcoming General Election is of interest to the retired vicar’s family and friends -- and the electors of Suffolk no doubt. But I expect little notice to be taken of the news.

What I found of interest, from a professional journalist’s perspective, is the descriptors the subject of the story used in talking about himself. Young is identified as a retired clergyman of the Church of England -- but also as a Quaker and a Franciscan.

Young’s claim raises the philosophical question for journalists: to what extent may a person identify themselves? What shapes reality? Is it the social construction given by the subject of a story, or an outside arbiter -- an eternal truth, natural law, the Associated Press Stylebook? Which, to borrow from Humpty Dumpty, is to be master?

This issue arises on questions of gender these days. Is it Bruce or Caitlyn Jenner?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Church of The New York Times keeps preaching its own faith

Church of The New York Times keeps preaching its own faith

It's time for another "Kellerism" update, as The New York Times continues its efforts to highlight religious institutions with doctrines that are unacceptable to the newsroom's theologians and, perhaps, the U.S. Department of Justice. This time, the drama shifts out West, where another Christian college community is trying to find a way to live out its faith commitments.

NEWBERG, Ore. -- A growing number of openly transgender students have forced schools around the country to address questions so basic that they were rarely asked just a few years ago, much less answered: What defines a person's gender, and who gets to decide?

A small Christian college here, George Fox University, has become the latest front in this fight, refusing to recognize as male a student who was born anatomically female. The student calls himself a man, and as of April 11, when a state circuit court legally changed his sex, the State of Oregon agrees.

But George Fox University sees him as a woman, and it prohibits unwed students from living with anyone of the opposite sex.

Notice the question that was not asked, in an alleged news story that opens with an editorial assertion: If a private -- as opposed to state -- college is a doctrinally defined voluntary association, what happens when a student decides that he or she does not believe those doctrines? Think of it this way: If a student at a Muslim college decided to convert to Christianity, thus contradicting the covenant he voluntarily signed when he came to the campus, would the college be able to say that this student had to accept the school's doctrinal authority?

Please respect our Commenting Policy