Flags at SchoolJanuary 22, 1991
To the administration and/or board of (name) Christian Schools
In the context of all the attention which is being given to flags, I would like to direct your attention to a matter which has been on my mind for some time.
The concern which I have is based on these assumptions:
1. The "stars and stripes", when displayed on campus, is a symbol of the allegiance which (name) Christian Schools supporters have to the government of the United States.
2. The "Christian flag", when displayed on campus, is a symbol of the allegiance which (name) Christian Schools supporters have to Jesus Christ.
3. The allegiance which (name) Christian Schools supporters have to Jesus Christ is their highest allegiance.
4. When flags are displayed on the three poles at the southwest corner of the building, the flag which is displayed highest is given the place of highest honor, and thus symbolizes the highest allegiance.
If any of these assumptions are erroneous, please explain the error to me.
I am not personally committed to the display of flags. When flags are displayed, however, it offends me to see the "Christian flag" in a position of lower honor. Therefore, I hereby ask that you either display the "Christian flag" in the position of highest honor, or remove it from the display.
Please tell me what your conclusions are regarding this matter.
January 24, 1991
(From the School Administrator)
Thank you for your letter of January 22. I will attempt to explain why we display the flags as we do. First, as an accredited school in the state of Kansas, we are required to display the flag of the United States and the State flag. Because we are a Christian school, we also choose to display the Christian flag as a testimony to that fact.
The positioning of the flags is based on Public Law 829; 77th Congress. When state, local or organizational flags are flown from the same pole, the U.S. Flag should always be at the peak. When flown from separate staffs, the U.S. Flag should always be hoisted first and lowered last. The National Flag should always be higher than the adjacent flags.
I believe God is honored when we obey the laws of man. For me this is clearly spelled out in Scripture. Matthew 12, Romans 3, Titus 3, and I Peter 2 are but a few examples. By displaying the flags in this manner we honor God both by the display of the Christian flag and submitting ourselves ". . .to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (I Pet. 2:13).
At (name) Christian Schools our first allegiance is to Jesus Christ. I do not believe the way we display the flags changes that fact “. . . .for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7b
February 8, 1981
(To the Administrator)
Thank you for your letter of January 24. I appreciate your willingness to consider some of the issues which I raised in my letter to you. Dialog among Christian brothers and sisters enables all of us to be more informed as we seek to do the will of our Lord.
(Name) Christian does have a responsibility to obey the laws of man. This is especially true if it is a state-chartered organization, legally organized, incorporated, accredited, and existing under and by virtue of the laws of the State of Kansas. Every entity is legally subject to the will of the authority which gives it existence.
Among the laws to which (name) is subject is Public Law 829, which requires that the National Flag should always be flown higher than the adjacent flags. Why is this required? Is it only to assure order or uniformity? Or, is the higher Position meant to imply that the National Flag is to be given higher honor than the other flags? If so, does this symbolically imply that the allegiance represented by the National Flag is higher than the allegiance represented by the other flags? Whether or not our dialog has any significance depends on this question. I believe that there is symbolic significance. If the school believes otherwise, then our dialog can stop with this awareness of the difference in our interpretations of symbols.
If there is symbolic significance in the relative placement of the flags, it might be helpful also to reflect on what is symbolized by the Christian flag. Is it simply another “organizational flag” similar to that of a manufacturing company or a fraternity, in this case a particular school or association of schools? Or does it have higher significance? If the school believes the Christian flag simply represents (name) Christian Schools or an association of Christian schools, our dialog can stop with my awareness of this belief. Because the Christian flag is displayed in many Christian churches of differing organizational loyalties, I have thought that the Christian flag symbolically represents the loyalty of all Christians to the person of Jesus Christ, or the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
If the Christian flag represents our loyalty to Jesus Christ himself, and if there is symbolic significance in the placement of the flags, we are left with this question: Is is more pleasing to our Lord to imply through the symbols of flags that our allegiance to him is the least of three allegiances, or to limit the reference of flags in a display to secular states? Is our Lord honored or insulted when we display a symbol of our allegiance to him in a manner which implies that we have other commitments which are higher than our allegiance to him? As I implied in my first letter, I believe it would be more pleasing to our Lord to remove the Christian flag from the display. This would not he contrary to any laws of man because, as you said, display of the Christian flag is a choice on our part, not a requirement. Perhaps it could be displayed on a single pole on the west side of the building, or near the street our front.
You conclude your letter by implying on the basis of II Samuel l6:7b that the Lord is not concerned with the way we display the flags, because this is a matter of “outward appearance,” while the Lord looks on the heart.
The context of this verse is the selection of David from among the sons of Jesse to be king of Israel. Samuel had been impressed with the height and physical appearance of the older brothers. He is reminded that God does not judge people on the basis of such “outward appearance,” but rather looks on the heart. It is well for all of us to be reminded that God judges us not by the “outward appearance” of our bodies, but by the content of our hearts.
Yet, the meaning of this reference should not he extended to implv that, because God is concerned with the thoughts of our hearts, he is not concerned with visible actions in the external world. The choices which we make in the external world of behavior are expressions of the thoughts of our hearts.
In Daniel 3, the young Jewish men refused to fall down and worship the image of Nebuchadnezzar. They didn’t go through external motions of worship while pretending that their hearts were directed to the true God. They refused to make an external bow before the image. For this they were protected from the fire in the furnace.
In Daniel 6, Daniel opened his windows toward Jerusalem and got down on his knees to pray, contrary to the king’s edict. He could have prayed quietly in his heart without detection, but he used “outward appearance” to confirm his state of mind. For doing so, God protected him from the mouths of the lions.
There are other matters of “outward appearance” which many Christians consider to be offensive to the Lord--the making of obscene or vulgar gestures; the wearing or posting of anti-Christian or Satanic symbols; bowing, kneeling, or saluting in the context of pagan worship. Some believers think that even the “mark of the beast,” which is clearly condemned, may be something visible in the external world. Matters of outward appearance are offensive to the Lord whenever they indicate or symbolize a compromised heart or lack of respect for the Lord and his kingdom.
I understand, and support, your desire to “obey the laws of man,” and to submit to “every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” The changes I am suggesting would not go contrary to this desire. If there were a conflict, our discussion would include other significant considerations. I am thankful that such is not now the case.
July 8, 1991
(To the school Board of Directors)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Enclosed is a copy of my letter of February 8, 1991, expressing my concern regarding the flag display at (name). I have not received a response to that letter. I confirmed with Brother (name) on May 31 that the letter was received. He said then that it was indefinite whether he would respond, but, if he did, it would be by the end of June.
I am not questioning the propriety of Brother (name)’s judgment as school administrator in not responding further to my letter. The school practice of flag display may be a tradition going back many years.
Because my concern remains, I now ask the board to review the school practice of flag display. I am offended when I see the current display. My feelings result from these beliefs regarding the flag display at the southwest corner of (name) Christian School:
1. The U. S. flag symbolizes allegiance to the United States; the ‘‘Christian’’ flag symbolizes allegiance to Jesus Christ.
2. The longest length of the center pole and the highest position of the center flag symbolically designate a position of highest honor.
3. Putting one of three flags in a position of highest honor symbolically implies that the allegiance which it represents is the highest allegiance.
4. It is dishonoring to Jesus Christ to imply that our allegiance to him is not our highest allegiance.
5. Any symbolic act which dishonors Jesus Christ is not good, and should be discontinued.
If you believe that any of these statements are in error, please tell me, so that I may benefit from your wisdom, and better understand your perspective.
I thank you for your consideration of this matter.
July 24, 1991
(From the Board Chairman)
Your letter of July 8 was presented at our monthly board meeting of July 18. And the board again discussed your concerns regarding the display of flags in front of the administration building.
I want to assure you that the board did receive copies of your previous letters. And the matter was discussed by the board. Mr. (name) gave members of the board your first letter, his response to you, and copies of your second letter. And the board concurred with Mr. (name)’s original response to you.
As stated in your February 8 letter, Mr. (name) explained that the law does require the display of the American flag. And if the American flag is flown with other flags, it is to be flown on a higher staff. I believe Mr. (name)’s reasoning from a biblical perspective was that since governments are ordained by God and God requires obedience to governmental authority, we are bound not only by public law but by Scripture to fly the flags as we do.
By thus flying the flags, we mean no disrespect to Jesus Christ. In fact, the very existence of (name) Christian testifies that we believe Jesus Christ is the Lord of all of life and is central to all that we do in school! As a result, the board has elected to take no action on the matter at this time.
On a personal note, I have great sympathy for your position. We display no flags in our own church building in (city) for reasons similar to those you mention. On the other hand, we maintain the centrality of the Word of God. (name) Christian is a place where the Word of God is central in all that is done. The display of flags in front of the school may seem to be inconsistent with this position. And I can understand that.
However, making changes with the flags at this point could cause other problems. We cannot take down the American flag. This would be in violation of public law. Removing the Christian flag would also cause offense. It was mentioned at our meeting that we fly the American flag and the Christian Flag in front of the elementary building. Interestingly enough, the staffs from which these flags are flown are the same in height. Although the suggestion was made that these flags be the center of campus, the board rejected that idea.
But long range plans call for the present industrial arts building to be moved so that there will be a better view of the school. Perhaps at such a time the flag display could be altered without causing either legal or conscientious problems. For now the board feels the matter should rest where it is and so has determined to take no action at this time.
August 2, 1991
(To the Board)
Thank you for your letter of July 24, and for the attention the board gave to this matter.
I appreciate your dilemma. Any action you take, or do not take, will offend someone.
I hope the reasoning in your letter is more convincing to the Lord than it is to me. If it is not, and he is offended, we will all have greater reason to praise his mercies.
May the grace and peace of Christ be with you.