Should we celebrate national holidays in church?
Since the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday this year, it raises the question even more pointedly than normal about whether (or how) churches should recognize national holidays in their worship services. For some, celebrating the Fourth of July is an important (almost vital) expression of the fact that we are still in the world and our gratitude for the blessings that come from living in a country like America. For others, this serves as yet another manifestation of the church’s captivity to nationalistic ideals and its inability to realize fully that the Kingdom of God and America are not the same thing. And, I’m sure that many fall somewhere in between.
I got into an interesting discussion with some of the other faculty yesterday about what their respective churches would be doing. The answers spanned a pretty wide range. In one church, the pastor will be preaching on “freedom” from Galatians 5 and will be using the Fourth of July as a segue into that topic. Otherwise, the holiday will not be addressed in the service. In another church, the holiday won’t come up at all. But, several large churches in the Portland area make a very big day out of the Fourth , with services complete with flags, uniforms, and patriotic music.
This also connects with the issue of whether Christian churches should display national flags in their services. Mike Bird blogged on this a couple of weeks ago, calling for n annual “remove flags from your church sanctuary day” and arguing that this is akin to idolatry. Nick Norelli, on the other hand, has argued that there’s nothing necessarily wrong with flags in church and that it’s not idolatry as long as you don’t worship them.
In both cases, the question seems to be about the extent to which churches should or should not participate in public displays of patriotism and/or nationalism. (I think Nick is right that we should be much more careful about throwing around the word “idolatry” in this context.)
What do you think? Are flags and national holidays legitimate in a Christian assembly, should they be banished entirely, or do you have a via media? And, what will your church be doing on Sunday? (Or, if you don’t know, what do you hope that your church will do on Sunday?)