Have you heard about the Baptist pastors in Shelby, North Carolina, who have raised the Christian flag above the American flag at their local churches? The pastors explain that our ultimate allegiance is to God, not government or country. One of the churches has launched a website (GodBeforeGovernment.org).
The pastors have a very valid point. Flags are powerful emotive symbols, as signified by the recent controversy over the Confederate battle flag. The pastors' actions remind Christians that our ultimate allegiance belongs to God. As Jesus said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God things which be God's" (Luke 20:25). In other words, ultimate loyalty must belong to God.
This ultimate allegiance is actually acknowledged in our Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
"Under God" means for Christians that America is under God, and our allegiance to Him and His Kingdom comes first. To do otherwise, to put country before God, is to make America an idol, a false God ("thou shalt have no other gods before me" [Exodus 20:2]). This is why dictators, would be dictators, and totalitarians in general abhor, detest, and fear convictional Christianity. True followers of Christ will never surrender ultimate allegiance and authority to anyone except their Heavenly Father — God first, then country.
As the framers and signatories (of which I am one) of the Manhattan Declaration stated in 2009, they were under "obligation" to "speak and act in defense" of the right to life of every human being, marriage as a divinely ordained "conjugal union of man and woman," and "religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image."
The Manhattan Declaration supporters pledge "that no power on Earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence."
In other words, God comes first, and then Uncle Sam.
Flying the Christian flag above the American flag in front of your church is the shorthand, symbolic word picture summarizing the Manhattan Declaration's affirmations of allegiance to God first and then to country.
The Christian flag, which officially dates back to the early 20th century, has a white field with a red Latin cross inside a blue canton. The red symbolizes the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the blue symbolizes the waters of baptism, and the white symbolizes Jesus' purity.
As a boy growing up in a Southern Baptist church in Houston, Texas, we pledged allegiance to the Christian flag as well as the American flag in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. It was always explained to us that the Christian flag and pledge took precedence and was paramount.
Here is how it goes: "I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands; one Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty to all who believe." We also pledged allegiance to the Bible: "I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God's Holy Word, I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path and will hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God."
By the way, I had the privilege of delivering the sermon in Sunday morning worship at First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, this past July 5, and the congregation was led by the minister of music in pledging allegiance to the American flag AND the Christian flag!
God comes first, and then comes country.