Since the inception of our nation, churches have supported the American military in its efforts to bring and preserve freedom. Since World War I, one way this has been shown has been by placing American flags in our church auditoriums.
While I am aware that there is a larger discussion related to patriotism in the church, I am a patriotic American who is grateful for the biblically-rooted American belief of liberty. And I do believe that expressing that in church has its place.
Yet in a strange twist of logic and the devaluing of American pride, as our nation seems bent on moving as far as possible from God and Christian values, federal leaders of our military apparently feel threatened by churches’ support of the military.
Just last week, a church in Carthage, Missouri, received what amounts to a “no thanks for patriotism” message from the National Guard. In a news article posted a few days ago, reporter Todd Starnes shared a deeply concerning story. A Baptist church who chose a patriotic theme for Vacation Bible School “invited troops from the nearby armory to drop by with one of their Humvees” to honor and thank the service members.
Earlier in the week, local paramedics, the fire department, and the sheriff’s department had all come and visited with the kids. But the National Guard said they couldn’t come. And it wasn’t because they were engaged in other duties. It was because a federal regulation is protecting their freedom from religion. To quote the pastor in Starnes’ article:
We were told it was against military policy for National Guard troops to participate in Vacation Bible School,” Pastor Hogan said. “They said if the National Guard had assets on church property it would look like the National Guard is sponsoring the Baptist religion.
Really? I think most Americans are pretty able to discern the difference between a church-sponsored event and a military-sponsored event—especially at a church’s Vacation Bible School. I’m also pretty sure that traditionally the military has seen opportunities to interact with kids and show them what the National Guard does as a way to encourage a sense of both patriotism and security—both high values of our National Guard.
Furthermore, as Starnes quoted a Guardsman saying:
I will never understand why it’s okay for the military to march in a gay pride parade but not be allowed to spend an hour talking to children who look up to them (soldiers),” the Guardsman said. “I honestly never thought I’d see the day that this would happen in my hometown.
Military leaders would be wise to once again welcome and nurture the support of Christians. Instead, the military has been working to silence the Christians within the military while ignoring the support of Bible-believing civilians.
We live in a nation with confused values.
As a patriotic American, I read a news story like the one mentioned here, and I grieve for my country—willfully bent on rejecting God and skewing the values upon which we were founded.
Yet, as a committed Christian, the same news story causes me to redouble my resolve to preach the gospel and stand for Christ—even if it eventually means persecution. (In the history of Christianity, the religious freedom we have enjoyed as Americans is unprecedented. The apostles and first-century Christians knew no such luxury.)
Looking past federal regulations, inconsistent and mind-bending exceptions, and a concerning trajectory as it relates to religious freedom, the long and short of it is—people still need the Lord. And God has committed the gospel to our trust (1 Timothy 1:11).
Will you pause right now and pray?
Pray for revival. Pray for our leaders. Pray for courage to stand. And pray most of all for fruitfulness in reaching those around you with the gospel of Jesus Christ.