Moral Contradictions

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

"It's about God, not about us..."

"...Even though we'll be celebrating our independence here, that's not true all over the world, and we need to be one with the universal church.''

I grew up in a SBC church with a pastor that has now been there over 40 years. His presence has helped keep out the fundamentalist takeover from invading our close church family. In the past few years, I've noticed some changes, especially after the pastor's son joined the military. Every Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, and Independence Day the active-duty members march to the front with the flag and we say pledge of allegiance. Almost all of the hymns are patriotic and the special music revolves around the holiday's theme. (Even more telling, my family informed me this past Sunday someone sang the National Anthem accapella, and the general reaction was "Play Ball".)

Something always unsettled me about the shift these past few years. I'm not sure where the balance needs to be. I recognize that if it were not for this country's First Amendment we may not even be allowed to publicly worship. I also believe that we need to thank God for our nation's founding and ask for His future guidance.

I'm reminded of the missionary kids who grew up in Brazil and were shocked to find the American flag in US churches. The concept of including a national symbol inside God's house was foreign to them.

Now that I attend a distinctly moderate church where my wife holds a staff position, I've experienced a toned-down service this past Sunday. Even with the relative difference between the two, I still am not sure where that line is.

I do know that the church mentioned in this article is way over the line:

First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas, prides itself on its fiercely patriotic approach to the Fourth of July.

Last year, Marines rappelled into the sanctuary, church members in uniform stuck rifles and helmets into a Styrofoam grave site made by a Broadway set designer and indoor fireworks exploded over a packed house in back-to-back services.

''It's just a big patriotic, feel-good moment,'' said Robert Elkins, the church's music director.

The line greys a bit with this example, yet I'm troubled with the funding mismatch:

First Baptist in Euless, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, spent more on its ''God and Country Day'' service last year than on Christmas or Easter. Located 20 miles from a military base and a Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, the church uses Independence Day as a major outreach event, said Elkins.

I happened to catch a little bit of Jerry Falwell's Old Time Gospel Hour patriotic show today, and wow... that was over the line. I'd never watched any of his stuff... after that, I wish I could continue making that statement.

I do agree with Richard Pierard's sentiment that we're seeing more of these types of services because "it's become intensified because of the politicization of American Evangelism." He points to the 1950s where religion was first linked with patriotism in a response to "godless" communism. This is where you begin to see "Under God" added to the Pledge of Allegiance, "In God We Trust" added to coinage and whatnot. After the 1960s the groundwork for the "Conservative Resurgence" was laid (I contend it was a subvertive backlash against civil rights, especially with the Southern Baptist involvement, but I'll save that for another day) and under President Reagan's tutelage, fundamentalists established the groundwork for where we are today.

So... all that and I still don't know how I feel about the inclusion of patriotism with worship. I know there's a line, but where exactly is it? Do we give regional exceptions to churches like the one mentioned above that sits near a military base? Do we really need Marines rappelling from the rafters? Are the priorities straight with the church that gives more funding to its God and Country Day than Easter and Christmas? I don't know.

All I know is I can agree with the statement mentioned above... "It's about God, not about us."


  • just a question? if god is perfection, why do you assume god to be male? why ffer to god as "he"?
    secondly, you mention the idea of a flag in a church being foreign to some people. is god a nationalist?


    By Blogger phil k, at Wednesday, July 06, 2005 9:40:00 PM  

  • Well, short of saying that's how God is referred to in the Bible, which I don't think would satisfy you, saying "She" would be just as wrong and "It" seems a bit disrespectful. Our common language doesn't lend itself much more wiggle room in regards to pronouns.

    I won't speak for God, but there are many in this country who prefer saying "God bless America" instead of "God bless everyone".

    By Blogger Nathan, at Wednesday, July 06, 2005 9:50:00 PM  

  • Problems I see with this “Patriotic Service” you mentioned:
    1. Was the Word of God preached? If not, the focus was not in the correct place!

    2. Many people today believe that they are saved because they are American. We should never associate Americanism with Christianity!

    3. When military service men decend down into the service by ropes and indoor fireworks are set off....this seems to be lifting up America rather than Jesus Christ. When the fireworks stop and the show stops....the people will stop coming as well. If you give them a show in order for people to come, you must give them a show to keep them coming.

    4. Our nation was based upon Christianity when founded. There is overwhelming evidence to prove this in history. For instance: In July of 1775 Continental Congress calls for day of prayer and fasting; preachers debate whether to submit to British authority. By July of 1776, the battles of Lexington and Concord along with Bunker Hill had taken place, and Thomas Jefferson penned our Declaration of Independence from Britain. This Country was built on the moral principles and Godly principles of Christianity, and was raised up as one nation under God. We still today have on our money the motto, “In God We Trust”, but I am afraid that it is more of a historical statement rather than a truthful statement. What we need in America is a genuine revival of the saved and salvation of the lost in order to be truly changed.

    5. I am typically against symbolism in church sanctuaries. In the case of the American Flag, it is a symbol of our freedom as Americans to worship God. While in the proper use, it should be a tool to thank God for that freedom rather than to worship the Flag, freedom, or military. I admit, it is a thin line, but when used properly, I see no problem with having an American Flag displayed.

    6. God’s chosen nation is Israel, and that will never be changed or altered. Our nation may have once been a Godly nation, but I feel that it is far from that today. Our relationship to God should be submissive rather than arrogant, otherwise, we are not above His judgment hand that could remove our power and freedom.

    7. On a side note......Nathan, you should try researching the subject of the Conservative Resurgence from an unbiased position. I personally have inside information from the situation that took place in the SBC and it is clearly based on the doctrinal differences between those such as Molly Marshall. By the way, when you make your slanted remarks toward SBC leadership and the Resurgence, have you even taken time to research what people like Ms. Marshall were teaching? I am sure you would not have approved of her theology!

    Psalm 33:12
    Blessed [is] the nation whose God [is] the LORD; [and] the people [whom] he hath chosen for his own inheritance.

    Josh Buice
    Practical Theology Discussions

    By Blogger Josh Buice, at Thursday, July 07, 2005 11:26:00 AM  

  • Josh,

    I pretty much have agree with everything you said. I believe the flag is on the right side of the line, yet marines rappelling inside was over the line. I would have liked to have seen it, but in a different context.

    As for your last point... Without knowing her or not having sat in one of her classrooms, my first inclination is to say (as others have) that she was removed b/c she was a woman. The music minister at the church I grew up with graduated from Southern in 89, so perhaps he had her (and I'll ask him next time I see him). The youth minister there has a ton of respect for her, and I greatly respect him, but that's all I know.

    All that aside, I fully and 100% disagree with the methods used in the takeover and the results. The means did not justify the ends, as the means were extremely political and have left room for people to say the firing of Molly Marshall wasn't over teaching but gender bias. To takeover a denomination that prided itself of church and believer autonomy from the top down and then install an Inquisitian like policy in every agency and seminary doesn't seem very Godly. To rewrite the Baptist Faith and Message and delete statements like "This is not a creed" and then use that as a litmus test for missionaries and other agencies doesn't seem very Baptist like (and definitely not Christian like). I have inside knowledge of what happened at the IMB here in Richmond once the SBC took over... wow.

    If Molly Marshall was teaching stuff that wasn't kosher, there were ways and practices established to handle that. To justify the tremendous change and division over her and others is futile in light of what's happened.

    By Blogger Nathan, at Thursday, July 07, 2005 12:18:00 PM  

  • Nathan,

    The video "Battle For The Minds" found at the link below was produced by a homosexual liberal concerning the Resurgence at Southern. I would suggest you watching that video! Even from a slanted can see that she was removed for the incorrect doctrine. It was not even Christian doctrine she was was heresy!

    LINK: ---

    May God continue to raise up men like those on that video such as former Trustee --- David Miller who will lead our Seminary to make proper choices on who educates our future ministers.

    God Bless,

    Josh Buice

    By Blogger Josh Buice, at Thursday, July 07, 2005 12:31:00 PM  

  • Yeah I came across the movie and a few reviews while googling her name. I admit from what I was reading, I wasn't sure whether I agreed.

    Again, I don't see that as justification for what's happened and the methods used.

    By Blogger Nathan, at Thursday, July 07, 2005 12:33:00 PM  

  • I worked at First Euless with Kim Noblitt and Robert Elkins...the July 4th Celebration was amazing and a huge outreach. We had people come to this to hear the gospel that would not set foot in a church normally, even on Easter or Christmas. This was a program that worked in our community and was very effective. We should never forget the men that died for this country for our freedom.

    By Blogger Jason Millsaps, at Friday, November 04, 2005 10:34:00 AM  

  • First, may I say, it would be good to have first hand knowledge of something before you speak against it. I attended that service at FBCE. The Word of God was spoken, God was honored above all else. The song that ended the service was "Jesus, What a Mighty Name" Both verses talk about the fact that all kings and leaders will bow down in The Day to Jesus. Pictures of famous leaders from this century are shown all the way up to the president of this country. The song states that "there is only one King that rose from the dead" and that "Jesus is Lord." Soldiers are honored for their service. But God is honored above all. My earthly father died without knowing Jesus as his savior. I would have given anything to have been able to bring him to this service. He served in WWII and it may have been the one thing that could have reached him. I thank God for services and churches like this.

    By Blogger dctalktx, at Friday, September 22, 2006 6:29:00 AM  

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