Dear Dr. Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church, Shelby, North Carolina, USA,
I am writing to you from a beautifully sunny London having just stumbled across your incredible blog, God Before Government, and, more specifically, the video you made last week explaining why your church would be flying the Christian flag above the US flag on Independence Weekend (which, as you know, goes against years of tradition). I was bowled over by your reasoning and your heartfelt explanation of the immense struggles faced by Christians in America today as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling on “gay” marriage, and I hope you don’t mind me outlining some of my thoughts here.
Your explanation as to why your church was going to fly the Christian flag above the US flag was simple and clear to understand: “we’ll serve God before we serve government”. That’s strong, fighting talk, verging on the revolutionary if you follow it through to its logical conclusion. Wow, finally a Christian church that’s standing up and telling the US government that enough is enough. For too long Christians have been battered down in the name of equality and now face a shocking situation in which they are being prevented from discriminating against people, which, let’s face it, is one of the things that hardline Christians such as yourself do so well. It’s time for that to change and it’s down to people like you, armed with your two flags, to do it. What greater sign of your desire to rebel against a government that believes in equality than to switch two flags around on a flagpole? Watch out Washington, the Christians are revolting!
You go on to explain that the US government, via the Supreme Court, is trying to “coerce [Christians] to violate our commitments to God”. Too true. The democratically-elected government is compelling its citizens to act in a way that is fair, just and tolerant. Shocking. Hardline Christianity has never tried to encourage anyone to behave in a way that is fair, just and tolerant so why should the government? We all know that America was founded by Christians and therefore the government should always be Christian and act in a Christian way by allowing Christians to discriminate against whomsoever they please. Tradition is important. Except when it comes to flying flags.
You continue your speech by explaining your hope that your church’s act of daring and extreme defiance (the flag switching) will “prayerfully…sweep across our country as a message to congregations to reevaluate our priorities: we serve God first”. I have a feeling in my bones that this is the beginning of something big. Flags will be switched across America and the government will quake. It will be a powerful act of civil disobedience, like the sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement (although, of course, we have to be careful mentioning the Civil Rights Movement as some crazy people seem to think that it and the Gay Rights Movement are similar, even though we all know that being born black and not being able to – nor wanting to – change is completely different from being born gay and not being able to – nor wanting to – change).
You finish your video by outlining the the three things that you are saying by putting “the flags in this order”. And this, if you’ll forgive me, is the point at which I’d like to offer a little bit of advice as I feel that the three things the flag switching is saying might need a little more thought. I’ve quoted the three things below, along with my helpful advice in red.
1. “We’re consistent with the pledge of allegiance: one nation, what? Under God.”
“One nation” implies tolerance and acceptance, which is not what you’re going for here, so you might want to skip this one of the three messages. [Interesting fact: the words “under God” were only added to the pledge in 1954. For 62 years before that, America had seen no reason to force non-believers to pledge that they believed God ruled their country. Weird, huh? Some people don’t believe the same as you. Crazy!].
2. “We’re consistent with our founding documents. All of our founding documents have in them the religious sentiments of the people and we’re simply reflecting that as well.”
I see what you’re getting at here, that the Founding Fathers who wrote the founding documents (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution etc) were true Christians, unlike the Christians and, (yuck) members of other religions or (double yuck) atheists who run the US now and are trying to force you and your fellow hardline pastors to live in a country in which other people marry gay couples. Be a bit careful here. The “religious sentiments” of the founding documents, which you believe support a Christian’s God-given right to discriminate against gays, also supported the view that slavery was great, that women were inferior to men and that Native Americans were savages. I know that you know that one of the joys of being a Christian is getting to choose which of the many discriminatory Biblical passages you want to believe and which you want to ignore, but some crazy people don’t understand that. You might want to explain it more fully.
3. “We’re being consistent with our beliefs.”
This actually is OK. Everyone knows that Christians should not be forced to live in a country in which gay people can marry. It’s awful. It’s almost like forcing them to live in a country in which people are allowed to divorce (Matthew 5:32) or have sex before marriage (1 Corinthians 7:2). But well done you for only focusing on one of these issues at a time. I’m sure you’ll be switching flags to protest against divorce and premarital sex when you have won the battle against the gays!
And there endeth my advice. I hope you took it in the serious and constructive way in which it was meant. I want to wish you luck with your campaign to topple the US government one flag at a time. The Supreme Court has told you and your congregation that gay people are equal to you and should be allowed to marry. They have said that you are free to continue to discriminate by not marrying any gays in your church building and by never having anything to do with them, if you see fit. But that is not enough. Your brand of Christianity is not about the passive discrimination of choosing not to associate with a minority, it’s about the active discrimination of purposely blocking a minority from sharing the same rights as you. Who do these judges think they are, standing up for equality, tolerance and love? Hardline Christians, such as yourself, are the ones who know about love and the sooner you can teach America and the world that it’s got nothing to do with kindness and fairness the better.
Much love (but not in a kind or fair sense, obviously),
P.S. What is the Christian flag anyway? I’m thinking it might be something like this? If not, you might want to consider it, it would make your flagpole look so pretty.
P.P.S. Just FYI, there are many Christians who don’t believe the same as you about the recent Supreme Court decision, rather they celebrate it. Shocking that some Christians might be celebrating love and joy and commitment, but there you go, the times they are a-changin’!