Flag Waving


In my senior year in seminary, I was appointed a local pastor to small United Methodist Church in Northwest Denver. One Saturday, the program for United Methodist Men was a presentation by Don and Jeanie Thompson titled “Pride Flag.”


The Thompsons wanted us to have more pride in the American flag. They sold a flag kit, which consisted of a 2 x 3 flag, carrying pouch, log, recorded serial number, and a copy of “Flag Etiquette.” The log was for recording when and where you’ve had your picture taken with your flag unfurled, whether in this country and around the world.


You could do this before Mt. Rushmore and on the Great Wall of China. By unfurling your flag in this manner, you bolster our flagging pride and continue the tradition of sporting the symbol of the best of civilization in new frontiers.


This was a painful presentation for me to sit through, because the American flag was prominently flown at the several Japanese American concentration camps. Fortunately, the Pride Flag Brochure did not mention these camps. But the brochure did say that “Our PRIDE FLAG has appeared from Atlanta to Canada and from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Custer Battlefield. They were not aware that the Custer Battlefield had been renamed “The Little Bighorn Battlefield.”


It made me sad to see such unabashed flag waving and triumphalism. It was sad to see the culture of this country elevated over the gospel and God. It was sad to see that for some people the only way to be patriotic was to stand by our government right or wrong.


I felt moved to say that I was proud of our country for making reparations to the Japanese American people. For all those who had property confiscated and destroyed during the Second World War, the government paid a sum of money that was of course nowhere equal to the financial loss incurred. Most important, the President of the United States sent a personal written apology to the people who were aggrieved. This, most Japanese Americans said, was more important than the money.


I am proud of our country for changing the name of Custer Battlefield to the Little Big Horn Battlefield. We have a country that can admit its wrongs and ask forgiveness. Isn’t this an occasion for enthusiastic flag waving? At our United Methodist Men presentation on the American flag, the Thompsons said that if we don’t take greater pride in our flag, our way of life would be in danger of perishing. Mr. Thompson said: “Every other country wants to be just like the United States. We are the envy of the world. They want to live like us.”


I hoped that this was not true. As a nation we consume too much of the world’s resources. I thought about global warming. If every country was like the United States, the temperature of the earth would quickly rise with disastrous effects. Carbon dioxide released by the combustion of fossil fuels absorbs and retains the rays of the sun reflected by the earth. The retained heat would elevate the temperature of the atmosphere, and the result would be the melting of polar ice caps and the raising of the oceans. This, I thought, was the real threat to our way of life.


If we all fought to consume what the United States consumes, this planet would be, if it isn’t already, in bad shape. Why can’t reduction of what we use for the sake of the planet be a cause for flag waving?