Note about the Guest Blog: B21 has produced in full a letter sent from the Music Minister at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky to thousands of other church muscians on why this minster’s congregation has chosen not to emphasize patriotism in their corporate worship. B21 believes there is much wisdom in this minister’s words and we hope that this letter will be helpful for us and our readers as we all consider patriotism in corporate worship.
Guest Blogger: Chip Stam, the author of the letter, is also the Director for the Institute of Worship at Southern Seminary.
[This went out to several thousand church musicians. This version is current as of April 5, 2007.]
Dear Pastors and Church Musicians:
I want to comment on Memorial Day and July 4th and how they overlap with the life of church music and faithful Christian worship.
I am a very patriotic American. I cry when the planes fly over the football stadium and when we sing “America the Beautiful.” I pay my taxes with enthusiasm and, to my knowledge, have never missed an opportunity to vote in state and national elections. I would guess that the vast majority of the U. S. citizens in our congregation are also extremely patriotic.
HOWEVER, as a local congregation, we choose NOT to use these national celebrations as an emphasis in our worship services. Here are our reasons:
1. It is just too easy to confuse what it means to follow Christ with what it means to be a loyal U.S. citizen. Especially when hard-hitting emotional presentations are made with flags and uniforms and pledges, it is too easy to get mixed up about where our allegiance should be. However, we ARE quick to pray for our country and for our leaders and we are quick to thank God for the freedom of worship that we enjoy. We are also faithful to pray for believers in other countries who do not enjoy the freedom to worship Christ openly.
2. We have many internationals in our congregations, many of whom are experiencing American culture for the first time, and some of whom are considering the Christian faith for the first time. We do not want to have the bold gospel of the Cross somehow confused in their minds with Uncle Sam and a particular form of government or foreign policy.
3. When a mood of patriotic celebration is present, it seems to be about two clicks away from partisan politics. While we strongly encourage citizens to vote, we are amazingly silent concerning how exactly Christians should vote. If anything, we want believers who are committed to different views on social programs and public policies to be ONE IN CHRIST. There are some fine Scriptures that support this position.
I realize that there are many Christ-centered churches that pull out all the stops (and flags) for these civic celebrations. My intent here is to share with colleagues in ministry how we have worked through some of these issues in a way that seems consonant with our understanding of the Lord’s will for our congregation. May God’s richest blessings be on you and your congregations—and on our country.
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Minister of Music & Worship
Clifton Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky