One of the delights of summer is taking a little trip back in time.
Vacation Bible school commencement is held during a Sunday morning service here in the hometown church just up the road. We adults get to enjoy the cute kids singing their VBS songs and doing their hand motions and telling what they did during the preceding week. Some years, we even get treated to a skit (though not this year. I once was in one, though.)
But before all of the fun begins we kick off the commencement with pledges of allegiance, which opens each weeknight session of VBS. First we pledge to the American flag. Then we pivot and pledge to the Christian flag. Finally we turn to a little girl (usually) holding a Bible and we pledge.
It all takes me back to pleasant days when I was a kid in VBS during which I placed my hand over my little heart and felt it beat a little bit stronger with grown-up pride in performing such a solemn act.
We’re quite patriotic at church. We have commemorations of Memorial and Veterans days and project on a wall a slide show with photos of our veterans. We fly the U.S. flag high over the cemetery. Often someone places little flags on the graves of our vets, including great-grandfather Harris who they say fought for the U.S. during the Civil War.
The July 5th service past included a congregational singing of the National Anthem.
This year, however, I couldn’t help but stand at the pew during the VBS pledges and the singing of the Anthem and wonder. I thought of what some in this diverse and tolerant country might think or say about the hometown folks pledging fealty to country while in church. Or pledging fealty to church and Scripture in such a diverse and tolerant country.
In this Internet age in which you can share anything and everything with strangers anywhere and everywhere, you know that someone somewhere would have something to say about it.
There’s been a lot of chatter lately about God and country. Some have become heartbroken over the way things have been going. There’s been plenty of talk on radio, TV and elsewhere about what’s been going on and what to do about it. It’s prompted some soul-searching, some rethinking of things.
One news story caught my eye. A report out of Shelby said two churches there have taken to flying the American and Christian flags — with the Christian flag on top of the pole.
“When I was getting ready to put the flag up one day, God spoke to my spirit that He was first,” Walter Wilson, pastor of Focus Missionary Baptist Church, told the Shelby newspaper. “He told me to put the (Christian) flag above the American flag.”
That’s a violation of the U.S. Flag Code, a federal law. The American flag always goes on top except for a church pennant flown during a church service on a Navy ship at sea.
I remember being disturbed some years ago when someone in Pleasant Hill had hung a Mexican flag over Old Glory on a utility pole.
The Shelby preacher and the Pleasant Hill resident have nothing to fear. Nobody’s going to arrest them.
But Old Glory and its handling still is something taken very seriously in this country.
Many here would appreciate the pastor’s sentiment about God.
But everything has its place. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven,” is how the book of “Ecclesiastes” in the Bible describes it.
And the place for the American flag is on top. Still. That’s its place, that’s its season. The place for God is in our hearts. That’s His place, that’s His season.
After all, the Christian flag is the modern-day creation of a New York City Sunday school superintendent and an Ohio Methodist minister in 1907. Jesus Christ never carried or sanctioned a Christian flag or said where to place it.
So, attention. Everyone stand. Place your hand over your heart. And say after me: I pledge allegiance … to the flag …
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.