by Ben Kinchlow
Hanging on the deck at the rear of this house was an American flag. As I drove slowly past, I noticed an American flag hanging on the front porch, and a chair that at first glance appeared to have an American flag draped over it. On close examination, it proved to be a "flag chair". A fanatic? A flag salesman? A holiday? What could be the motivation for three flags on one house?
You see, something as old fashioned, pass?, and un-hip as patriotism raises eyebrows today. People seldom stand for the national anthem unless "the crowd does". Most of us don't know the words to The Star Spangled Banner, and some of us have even forgotten the Pledge of Allegiance.
School children are no longer taught the virtues of patriotism. The Founding Fathers have become "old dead white men" who are objects of ridicule. It is almost impossible to find an article that speaks favorably of the men who pledged "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" in support of the freedoms articulated by The Declaration of Independence. Could many high school and college students identify any of the great founding documents of America? Could you?
But, you say, "Ben, we're Christians! We should not be concerned with politics. We should be concerned with the things of heaven. Time spent on political or civil activities is wasted, since these have no eternal significance." Believe it or not, that argument is almost 200 years old.
One of the Founding Fathers, John Witherspoon, answered it thusly -
"Shall we establish nothing good because we know it cannot be eternal? Shall we live without government because every constitution has its old age and its period? Because we know that we shall die, shall we take no pains to preserve or lengthen our life? Far from it, Sir; it only requires the more watchful attention to settle government upon the best principles in the wisest manner, that it may last as long as the nature of things will admit."
President James A. Garfield, a dedicated Christian minister, warned against lazy citizens and negligent Christians - "Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature..."
Christians must again become active in the civic and political arenas. Charles Finney, a leader in America's Second Great Awakening thundered - "God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the church will take right ground. Politics are a part of a religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty for the country as a part of their duty to God... God will bless or curse this nation according to the course Christians take in politics."
The flags are folded, the bands stilled, the bunting removed, the speeches silenced. Memorial Day, or "Decoration Day" as it was called when May 30, 1868, was set aside for the purpose of.... "Decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country..." has come and gone.
But, as Americans, let us with Abraham Lincoln gratefully recall"... that from these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion... that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
*Special thanks to David Barton, Wallbuilders, Inc., for his book, Original Intent.