Building monuments to commemorate important events is actually a biblical concept. Whenever the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) were delivered from evil by, or simply met with, God, they often erected an altar in His name afterward. Monument-building is a way of making historical moments permanent, and ensuring future generations will remember what they ought to remember.
U.S. Americans have never balked at using religious language to describe their nation, or at borrowing Christian ideas and practices and constructing from them a civil religion. We have a lot of monuments, most of them homages to the birth of our country or American participation in foreign wars, and some of them have become synonymous with freedom and personal liberty.
Because some misuse or attribute to much importance to them isn't a reason to reject national monuments. They bring us together as citizens, and remind us of the virtues necessary to form and maintain a strong people. The Lincoln Memorial, for example, helps us remember those who died in the name of liberty; the Washington Monument speaks of nobility, strength, and unity of purpose.
Not all the American symbols are monuments; probably the most universal and easily-recognized is the American flag. While we need to be careful not to honor the flag or what it represents beyond what is proper, having a visual reminder of our diverse nation's ultimate unity and humble origins is not only helpful but necessary. We are people of vision, and therefore we need to have something to physically turn toward in the name of solidarity.
For Christians, of course, the ultimate symbol is the Cross of Christ. It's important to remember that the Cross and the American flag do not go hand-in-hand; the flag doesn't save anyone, but faith in Christ does. Trying to conflate the two, as though God has a special place in His heart for the U.S., orour country is somehow a united advocate of the Gospel is dangerous business.
However, those of us who live in the United States and are Christians do have a responsibility both to the Cross and the flag. As Jesus said, render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's—we owe Christ everything including our very lives; we owe the state only our loyalty and support as citizens as long as the state is not forcing us to deny Christ or disobey His Law. As long as this hierarchy is maintained, we can celebrate American symbols without qualms of conscience.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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