I did a little experiment this past fall. It was a sociological and theological experiment. At first, I didn’t tell anyone about this experiment. Not even my wife. I knew that if I told her, the experiment would be shut down fast.
To introduce the experiment, I have a question for you. How many of you fly the American flag at your home, or on your vehicle or something like that? For those of you who don’t fly the flag, how could you be so unpatriotic and unAmerican??? Just kidding. We don’t fly the American flag at my house either.
But that brings me to another question. How many of you fly the Christian flag? I would be surprised if many did. Driving around my community, I see plenty of American flags, but not a single Christian flag. And that reality gave me the idea for the experiment.
As walk back and forth from the church office to the church mailbox out along the road, I often look at the flags flying in our church yard. We fly he American flag and the Christian flag.
We’ve never been able to find flags that last long. Maybe a year. Maybe two if we’re lucky. Outdoor flags deteriorate fast because we fly them 24/7/365. The US flag code allows for flags to fly 24/7 if they are lit in the dark. Otherwise you have to take them down overnight. We have ground light shining on our flag pole, which means the weather takes its toll on our flags
Last fall, I noticed our Christian flag was fraying, so I lowered the flags, cut off the frays, and with the flag draped over my shoulders, an idea hit me.
The US Flag code says that whenever the American flag is flying among other flags, the American flag should be highest. It’s not a law, but a code of honor. Its symbolic, right? This symbolism has long gotten under my skin as a Christian. This is the theology part of the experiment. Outside our church, when we fly the American flag above the Christian flag, we could be interpreted as believing or proclaiming that America is above Jesus. But we don’t believe that. Not even close.
So I switched the flags, looking around to see if any people in the cars passing by would notice. Then I raised them with the Christian flag on top. I felt nervous, and as I quickly walked back inside.
Did anyone notice? How many people are even aware of the flag code? How many people would care? I doubt many of you reading this were aware of the flag code. For the first few days, I remained a bit nervous. But there was no response. Two months went by without a peep, and I forgot about the experiment.
Then one person from Faith Church mentioned to me they noticed the flags. I don’t know if I had any visible reaction on my face, but I felt the nerves as I explained that I was doing an experiment. They understood, and the experiment continued.
Two more weeks went by. Then one day a woman left an anonymous voicemail at the church office. Was she a community member, was it a tourist? Who knows? She did not identify herself. But she said she saw the flags, and she wondered if someone made a mistake when hanging them. The American flag should be on top. Then she got really stern, saying that it was total disrespect to American veterans.
At that point, I played the voicemail for my wife. She thought the experiment was a very bad idea because people driving by would naturally assume that Faith Church was trying to make statement. But Faith Church wasn’t making a statement. Faith Church didn’t even know about it. I was just doing an experiment. She was right. So I changed the flags back, a bit begrudgingly. I tell you this story because our flags relate to Palm Sunday.
Check back to the next post, as we’ll talk about that further.