Monday, June 05, 2006

Civic Holidays and the Church

I confess always struggling to know how appropriate it is to observe civic holidays in our church services. For example, I had a voice mail two days before the Memorial Day weekend by a senior citizen in our church who said, “this may be short notice, but I sure hope we will be singing the “National Anthem” or “God Bless America” this weekend.” I am extremely proud to be a citizen of this great nation and am so thankful for the freedom we enjoy; however, I wrestle with how appropriate it is to give a lot of time toward leading the congregation in the singing of patriotic songs in our services.

I found it very interesting to see that Bob Kauflin recently took time to speak to this very issue in a recent post. Here’s a quote:

"In brief, since God’s kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36), we don’t feel any obligation to draw attention to, highlight, or celebrate civil holidays as part of our Sunday gatherings. There are a number of reasons. Our country doesn’t set the agenda and priorities for the meetings of the church – God’s Word does. Also, one country’s celebration may confront another country’s values. For instance, not too many Christian Brits celebrate Independence Day. Finally, we gather on Sundays to remember the covenant God has made with us, celebrate the redemption He has provided through His Son, and to encourage one another to live lives worthy of the Gospel. The values celebrated by a particular public holiday may not always line up with those goals.Kauflin does go on to point out that there are legitimate times to emphasize national holidays within services, but definitely cautions one from going too far in this direction."

In a related vein, I was angered by all the patriotic musicals that came out for churches in the wake of 9/11. It smacked of the music industries desire to profit from the attacks by filling all the churches with patriotic music. I enjoyed several very meaningful renditions of the “National Anthem” following the attacks, but felt like publishing companies put out endless 45-minute patriotic musicals in attempt to milk the emotions of people for corporate profit.

This leads me to the assertion that I have heard some make that America is some kind of new Biblical Israel. This has no support Biblically and feeds the ego-centric mindset that harms our ability to truly be effective for the work of the gospel around the world. We must remember we are citizens of heaven first and if, God forbid, one day this great nation would fall our citizenship in heaven would not be shaken.

NOTE FOR PARKVIEW: With this post I am not making the statement that we will not recognize these holidays in our services, nor am I saying that we will not ever sing a patriotic song in our services. I am simply stating some of my concerns about making Patriotic themes too central in our services.

1 comment:

John Carlson said...

Ya - I think singing a song such as the anthem or GBA is probably over doing it - however there are some Hymns that can work of course (This Is My Father's World", etc.) Recognition of veterans, etc. that gave their lives or served via brief spoken word or prayer I think is really appropriate - that's a huge thing to them. I think to gloss over a holiday like Memorial Day or Labor Day can risk making the church look as if it's oblivious to the world around us or disrespectful/cold to those people for which these holidays still hold meaning more than a BBQ and a sale at Best Buy. Or it makes us just look forgetfull!