One Ebony Voice

The thoughts and views of an African-American...

Patriotism, Idolatry and the American Flag

Reve' M. Pete, D. T. S.

"You shall have no other gods before Me." Exodus 20:3

"'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?' Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22:36-40

The American Flag is the symbol of the United States of America. It represents “We the People” of the United States. It is flown on top of public buildings, on flag poles in public places, proudly carried in parades, displayed and used to represent and honor American Olympic athletes during Olympic award ceremonies. “Old Glory” (a nickname for the American Flag) is flown at private residences, worn on lapel pins, and is used on postage stamps. Regardless of how Old Glory is used or displayed, it ALWAYS represents “We the People” of the United States of America.

The rights and privileges of the people of the United States are given in the Constitution of the United States of America. That Constitution begins, “We the People”. Therefore, Old Glory is a symbol of all the rights and privileges that “We the People” are due as citizens of the United States.

Does Old Glory exist as a service to “We the People” of the United States? Or, are “We the People” of the United States here to serve Old Glory? Respect and appreciation for the former is patriotism. The latter is idolatry.

In Luke 4:8 Jesus responded to Satan’s second temptation by saying, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'" Satan wanted Jesus to worship him. Jesus clearly stated worship and service belong to God. The reference scripture on Luke 4:8 is Deuteronomy 6:13, "You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name."

The word “serve” used in Deuteronomy 6:13 comes from the Hebrew word avad. It means, “to serve”, “to be made to serve”, “to be served”, “to work”, “to toil”, “to be worked”, “to till”, “to plow”, “to make weary or fatigued”, “to work as a slave”, “to enslave”, “to worship”. Avad may be applied to physical objects, people or God. In Deuteronomy 7:16 as well as 2 Kings 10:18-19, 21-23, avad was used in reference to false gods. From these scriptures as well as what Jesus said in Luke 4:8, the message is quite clear: Men are NOT to serve objects. Men are to serve God.

The American Flag is an object that represents “We the People”. The American Flag DOES NOT exist for “We the People” to serve. It exists to serve “We the People”.

One of the rights and privileges of “We the People” given in the Constitution of the United States of America is the right to peacefully protest. If the people choose to peacefully protest in a manner that involves the American Flag, BUT DOES NOT in any way harm or desecrate that flag, then the flag is serving “We the People”, just as it serves when flown at half-mast to demonstrate mourning, or is used to cover a coffin. Protesting in a manner that involves the American Flag without harming or desecrating it in any way says, “America, we have a problem”. The same way the words, “Houston, we have a problem” were used in the movie, Apollo 13 to communicate to the people at NASA Mission Control Center in Houston that the astronauts on Apollo 13 had experienced difficulty, Old Glory communicates that “We the People” are experiencing difficulty and the matter needs to be addressed. In this Old Glory serves as a symbolic place for “We the People” to come together to fix the problem.

To say that Old Glory should NOT be involved in any peaceful protest that DOES NOT harm or desecrate Old Glory in any way puts “We the People” in a position of serving the American Flag. That is IDOLATRY. It turns Old Glory into an idol god. Idolatry is a SIN. (Exodus 20:3) The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

If the American Flag represents “We the People” of the United States of America, it MUST represent the people AT ALL TIMES. That means Old Glory represents the people when things are going well. Old Glory must also represent the people when they feel the need to publicly say, “America, we have a problem”. To appreciate this truth and to also live it is TRUE PATRIOTISM.

"For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." Exodus 20:5b-6

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