Flags in Chapel

Politics & Flags in Chapel?

on November 22, 2019

Recently there was some online controversy over Boston University’s Marsh Chapel draping its altar tables in a rainbow flag and “RESIST” banner. The university is United Methodist affiliated and its seminary, Boston School of Theology, is one of the denomination’s official 13 seminaries, receiving over $1 million annually from the church. A picture and video of the “Transgender Remembrance Day” service were tweeted by the seminary.

I retweeted the photo of the rainbow draped altar proclaiming RESIST, which may refer to resistance against United Methodism’s traditional teachings on sex. Or it may refer to resisting Trump. Maybe it’s both.

Some responded to the tweet by comparing it to churches hosting American flags. Others likened it to Religious Right support for Trump. Dallas Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress was cited for his close alliance with Trump and his annual flag-bedecked July 4 worship service.

My response via Twitter was that national flags of any country can be appropriate in a sanctuary if at the side, as quiet reminders of where God has placed us and our civic duties as Christians. National flags shouldn’t drape the altar table of be the center of worship.

I also can’t conceive any reason to incorporate political banners or symbols into the center of worship, whose focus always should be God. Even causes solidly rooted in Christian teaching, such as pro-life or civil rights, must not displace God’s centrality in worship, which should never become a political rally.

Catholic faith was central to Polish support in the 1980s for the Solidarity trade union movement against the Soviet imposed Communist regime. But I don’t recall Solidarity banners draping Polish Catholic altars. If ever they did, such enthusiasm was misplaced and inappropriate. The church best supports justice for all when it remains faithful to its calling to be the church, proclaiming the Gospel, administering the sacraments, and pointing to the eternal Kingdom.

Political themes and social justice advocacy appear common at Boston School of Theology and at most liberal Protestant seminaries, suffusing their teaching and worship. For them, direct political activism is central to building God’s Kingdom. Salvation for many of them is societal and chiefly of this world, not personal and eternal. So political liberation from injustice is primary. For them, to ignore or minimize the struggle against injustice is to become complicit with oppression, which is a form of blasphemy.

There’s really no political equivalent at any conservative seminary of which I’m aware. Even where faculty and students maybe overwhelmingly on the political right, I’ve not seen or heard political equivalents of Boston’s rainbow draped altar. Theological traditionalists typically stress personal salvation and personal holiness in their worship. Theological liberals complain that traditionalists are distracted from the REAL issues. But for traditionalists, salvation and holiness are the REAL issues, and authentic societal justice requires churches proclaiming eternal verities.

Liberal theology and political witness is hyper egalitarian and increasingly hyper individualistic. Equality and rights for all, rooted in the Gospel, have morphed into self-actualization for all, in which each individual claims unique reality and identity that others must affirm. Christian egalitarianism has degenerated to self-empowerment divorced from Christian anthropology. So Boston School of Theology celebrates self-created genders in route to the complete atomization of the Self, which is intrinsically corrosive to standards of universal justice for all.

Last week the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association visited Boston School of Theology. She spoke at worship in Marsh Chapel and met with Unitarian students. So apparently the Trinity and Christ’s deity are not central at this United Methodist seminary.

A Christian seminary can only be faithful to its calling if rooted in the Trinity and Christology, which includes biblical anthropology. A faithful and effective seminary does indeed RESIST the spirits of injustice in this world, not by political proclamation, but by sound Gospel proclamation.

  1. Comment by Eternity Matters on November 22, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Those people hate the real Jesus and are just looking for any reason to mock him.

  2. Comment by Mary Dobbins on November 22, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    These are Warnings Christains! Are you willing to lay your life down to Spread The Good News of Jesus? Defend The God Brewthed and inspired Word of God Almighty? Bible Believing and Covered By the Blood of Jesus followers pray and submit to what is the Lord’s. Amen!
    People have tried to cause Church separation Since Jesus’s Resurrection! This is why we have so much confusion! Satan is enjoying hus slow manipulative ways to enter Our very Souls and break the bond we have as Followers of
    Jesus Our Saviour. To have a strong and steadfast with seeking relationship with! Don’t allow anyone. No one try to sway the bond you have with Jesus! Praying, reading The Word. Commitment to be a Christian Warrior for The Kingdom of God! Be careful little ears what you hear! God Bless America and God Bless All of You in Jesus’s name I ask you Lord. Amen ✝️✝️✝️

  3. Comment by Carolyn Miller on November 22, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    hi o my gosh, Christ only needs to be the center point of the church and to me this is disgusting. I am so sorry some of the Methodist churchs are displaying such an abomination in the Sanctuary of our precious LORD.

  4. Comment by .mary Anne Hughes on November 24, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    I agree. Politics is not part of worship.the focus is on God

  5. Comment by Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret. UM clergy) on November 22, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Mark, you wrote: “I retweeted the photo of the rainbow draped altar proclaiming RESIST, which may refer to resistance against United Methodism’s traditional teachings on sex. Or it may refer to resisting Trump. Maybe it’s both.”

    I suggest that it is both, sir.

    An October 25, 2018 article at https://tinyurl.com/wqa6rwh makes that case noting that both movements:
    A. Labels as propaganda
    B. Protest demonstrations as opinion-impact theatre
    C. Escalate violations to test boundaries and challenge enforcement

    (Note: the banner photo was selected by the posting site.)

    One can disagree/agree with the premise of one or both movements, but the comparative optics are obvious.

  6. Comment by John Smith on November 22, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    As a retired veteran I must admit that I have ambiguous feelings about national flags in the sanctuary. The reasons go beyond the scope of the issue here but I would point out, that in my experience, those who would drape the altar in a rainbow/overtly political flag would be the first to demand the removal of the American flag from a sanctuary. For them to try and equate the two is rank hypocrisy and an attempt at blatant deception to further their political objective.

  7. Comment by Will on November 22, 2019 at 8:58 pm

    Agreed sir. Political flags have no place in the sanctuary, right or left. The US flag is an exception but it should be not placed on the altar. That said, I have never seen a right-wing flag displayed. I suspect that the SJW people have a monopoly on showing their ‘wokeness’. Thank you for your service.

  8. Comment by SkippingDog on November 23, 2019 at 12:58 am

    Why should the U.S. flag be an exception? There’s nothing Christian about it.

  9. Comment by John Smith on November 24, 2019 at 7:17 am

    The question is not a US flag but rather a national flag. To quote Mr. Tooley: “My response via Twitter was that national flags of any country can be appropriate in a sanctuary if at the side, as quiet reminders of where God has placed us and our civic duties as Christians.”
    My concern with national flags centers around the transnational character of the church. (As I said, a different debate, having nothing to do with this one except to deflect the conversation.) None of this, however, sanctions the blatant use of political flags on the altar (one might say in place of the altar) to promote a cause. A “Don’t Tread on Me” flag would be equally wrong.

  10. Comment by David on November 22, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    In many churches in the US, you will find an American flag and a so-called Christian flag. The second is a sort of take off of the first and features poor contrast between a red cross and the blue canton. The US flag and that of Israel is often found in synagogues. I suppose one could object to a foreign flag, but there seems no debate on this. Various sorts of banners are popular in churches today, but covering a communion table with one is unusual to say the least. Typically, one finds “Do this in remembrance of me” or “Holy, holy, holy.”

    “Equality and rights for all, rooted in the Gospel…”—I must have missed something in my readings. “Slaves obey your masters” does not seem to bear this out and, of course, women are put in their place. Divine right monarchy is the only form of government to come out of the Christian tradition. We can thank the pagans for our present democracies.

  11. Comment by Patrick98 on November 22, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    And yet, when a Methodist hospital pressures a woman to have an abortion there is not a peep out of Mark Tooley or the IRD. Sad.

  12. Comment by Palamas on November 22, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    You’re joking, right? Or are you actually unaware of IRD’s consistent, decades-long opposition to abortion, to the 1972 Social Principles statement, and its leadership in the effort to withdraw the UMC from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice?

  13. Comment by Patrick98 on November 23, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    No I am not joking. LifeSite News reported this story about the Methodist Hospital in Illinois that pressured a woman to abort her child? . The link is here:

    I brought this story to Mark’s attention hoping that the IRD would cover it, but sadly, they never did.
    Yes, I know that the IRD is opposed to abortion, thank God. That is all the more reason to cover this story.

  14. Comment by David on November 22, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    I have frankly not heard of a medical facility pressuring a woman to have an abortion. More typically, the medical facts are presented and the choice offered. Carrying a defective fetus to term that will only die promptly anyway seems useless. It is often considered cruel to carry defective fetuses to term that will live in a very impaired state.

  15. Comment by Lee D. Cary on November 24, 2019 at 7:26 am

    Planned Parenthood is not a medical facility?

    If not, then how are they equipped to perform abortions, David?

  16. Comment by David on November 24, 2019 at 7:42 am

    I did not mention Planned Parenthood.

  17. Comment by Lee D. Cary on November 27, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    So it’s not a “medical facility”? Who knew?

  18. Comment by Lee D. Cary on November 27, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    Many both schools and hospitals with “Methodist” in their branding are only loosely connected to the denomination.
    In fact, I understand SMU has asked to disassociated with the Jurisdiction. I pass on this from a highly reliable, eye witness source. (Not hearsay)

    (Quote) “They told us that SMU had informed the SCJ that they were no longer going to affiliate with the UMC. The SCJ told them that they did not have the authority to do that.

    They then provided us with a long history of SMU and how it was founded by the ME South and that when they broke up it then reverted to the SCJ. They said the SCJ holds the Articles of Incorporation and that it clearly states that the SCJ appoints all the Trustees at SMU and has oversight of the institution – basically they run it which they’ve been doing for decades.

    Also, the deeds for the property and buildings were in the name of the ME South and those too reverted to the SCJ. SMU told them “too bad” we’re doing what we want to.

    So, the SCJ told them that they were coming to campus and were going to appoint an entirely new group of Trustees. Before they could get there SMU told them that they held an emergency meeting and voted to dissolve the current Articles of Incorporations and create new ones. They were told that they didn’t have the authority to do that but they said we’ve done it so don’t waste your time appointing new Trustees – we won’t recognize them. They also told the SCJ that they would fight them all the way to the US Supreme Court. The SCJ told us that this is going to be a very expensive legal battle (and of course they don’t have any money for this) so they wanted to have us provide them with guidance.

    One person said that they needed to have SMU take the work Methodist from their name The SCJ person said they told them that but SMU refused to – said that they are going to continue using SMU and they would take that to the USSC too. Oh, and the SMU Trustees begged the SCJ to keep this whole thing under wraps – to not let the media, or any members of the UMC know that this was happening. The SCJ reps then called the Dean at Perkins and found out that he was not even aware that his own university had voted to disaffiliate with the Methodist Church. ” (End Quote)

  19. Comment by Bill on November 22, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    I find this disgusting. I would also find it disgusting if it were an American flag draped upon the altar table. Were are our Bishops when this nonsense is happening? I bet they would spring into action if a confederate flag or don’t tread on me banner were displayed.

  20. Comment by John Smith on November 24, 2019 at 7:23 am

    The Bishops probably picked out the flag. I would have said they personally placed in on the altar but I don’t see them stooping to do the work of their minions.

  21. Comment by Jim Lavender on November 22, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    Regardless the social issue, the altar of Christ wrapped in flags? What if traditional congregations draped theirs in American flags? Equally wrong.
    Broken lives do not need this when their souls need something of deeper substance.
    Frankly, Jesus would puke (a phrase I heard at Duke 45 years ago).

  22. Comment by TRACEY A KARCHER on November 23, 2019 at 1:17 am

    WTF? Seriously!?

    Just saw Jesus Christ Superstar on tour. It was the first time for me. Just as in Tim Rice’s adaptation of the gospel (or most of it) the people STILL don’t understand what Jesus came to do. How long, oh Lord?

    (And yes, I used WTF. Strong letters for strong passion. I do not pretend to be something I’m not.)

    Than you, and God bless you Mark!

  23. Comment by John Smith on November 24, 2019 at 7:22 am

    If you use JC Superstar correctly it can be a great tool. It is not an adaptation of the gospel but the story of Judas. How could Judas betray Jesus? Why?? Why couldn’t the people see and accept the Evangel? Why do people fall away? There is much to be used there to engage others.

  24. Comment by Joan Sibbald on November 23, 2019 at 11:30 am

    The Left’s religious agenda is to transform Western Civilization’s Old Testament Judeo-History and Prophecy and New Testament Christianity to hedonism’s worship of “Self.” The weapon the Left wield is: LGBTPPFS&MPDQ…
    Planned Parenthood
    Drag Queens..

    The Left use euphemisms: “inclusive,” “diversity,” “fairness,””tolerance ” to lull the young and sway gullible adults. They are powerful.

    I wrote a poem some time ago to help people understand the power behind the agenda:

    “Satan Says”
    I created you.
    Give me your children
    I’ll let them in.
    My people will teach them
    there is no sin.
    That’s how I win.

    I added another line at the end of my poem after listening to each of the presidential candidates and their Party’s platform: I’m a Democrat!

    I won’t use it here because I believe many compassionate Democrats have fallen victim and believe the euphemisms instead of believing God’s Word.

  25. Comment by Ginny on November 25, 2019 at 7:40 am

    As one who attends BU School of theology/finishing MDiv degree, I would say the flags stand for both. Unfortunately this was the school I needed to attend as a UM going toward ordination(the denomination may change now that I will have degree). This “seminary” is do liberal it is scary. These are future pastors, social workers, deacons etc… God help us all.

  26. Comment by William on November 25, 2019 at 8:17 am

    The rainbow flag on that alter represents what these people actually WORSHIP – the LGBT+ agenda IDOL. This whole movement within the Methodist denomination is evolving into a full fledged CULT.

  27. Comment by Lee D. Cary on November 27, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    Joan, Jennie, William: You give me hope by flying close to the flame of truth.

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