Flags on Sunday

The Fourth of July, the independence day for the United States, landing on a Sunday this year allows for a unique opportunity for American Christians to evaluate our own personal relationship between both the flag and the cross and make adjustments as necessary. An inescapable reality is that our identities as Christian and our identities as American exist in a complex tension that is critical for us to understand as both a body and as individuals. The founding of our country was a Christian missionary endeavor. The justification of everything that our founders did to the native and indigenous communities that were here before us was plastered with “Manifest Destiny,” quite literally the belief that genocide was not only inevitable but God-ordained. This is our inescapable legacy that we cannot change. The foundation of our religion in this country is built on unmarked graveyards.

This is not to say that the Fourth of July has no meaning whatsoever, or that Christians can’t or shouldn’t celebrate the holiday. A few weeks ago, I celebrated Midsummer, partly to honor my Norwegian heritage and partly to honor the liturgical celebration of John the Baptist’s birthday. The holiday has come to mean a great deal to me. The secular aspect encourages us to celebrate the passing of winter and the arrival of summer both literally and figuratively. The religious aspect encourages us to look forward to the coming Son and the promises of liberation he carries with him.

Photo of our Midsummer dining table

The Fourth of July can mean many things. It can be a rallying cry against all other countries and people that we are here and we are the best. It can be an honoring of what goes well and a reflection on what we need to change. It can be about family and friends, honoring and recognizing the communities we find ourselves embedded in. It can be an opportunity to engage in our culture, connecting our individual selves to a larger, meaningful collective. Like Midsummer, the Fourth of July has a lot to offer me. I spent this year’s holiday on a lake with three great friends and three new ones. We celebrated the beauty of each other and the beauty of the nature we found ourselves in.

Much like the manifest destiny of our forefathers, Christians today often fall into a dangerous pattern of putting patriotism and nationalism ahead of our work as Kingdom builders. The scriptures are clear that heaven is a place of multiple tongues and nations. They often speak about the universality of experience, while marking the distinction of difference. There are Jews and Gentiles but the differences between them, the ethnic rivalries and the seemingly incompatible ways of life, don’t matter anymore. All have been welcomed into everlasting relationship with the Holy.

This Fourth of July, as the fireworks fade from the sky and your stomach finishes digesting the hot dogs and hamburgers you scarfed down, I encourage you to evaluate your relationship with the cross and with your country. Are you giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s or have we shifted that relationship and given to Caesar what is God’s – our unflinching allegiance, worship, and praise? Have we begun to hear “America is good” and answered “all the time” in our liturgies? Have we hung the flag from our pulpits and endorsed political candidates and signed petitions in our parking lots? Have we done what was best for our country at the expense of a child of God in another country?

We cannot build a Kingdom when we’re fighting our citizens for territory. We cannot love mercy when we love retribution. We cannot seek justice when we sweep injustice under the rug. We will never walk humbly until we have traded the weight of our pride for accountability.


Bryce Van Vleet is the #1 selling author of Tired Pages and Before We All Die Let’s Have One Last Chat by the Fireside. He also hosts the podcast Death in Dakota. You can support him by clicking through blog posts or donating (scroll to the bottom of the page). Like him on Facebook or follow him on Goodreads.

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The Idolatry of Safety

Photo description: a fire extinguisher sits in the background. The words “The Idolatry of Safety” are in front of it. Image Credit

Lies We Believe About Ourselves and Others

Day One: The Idolatry of Safety Intro

If you stick around long enough in Christian circles, you start to hear about fear. There’s two kinds we Christians deal with: the spoken kind we are called to overcome (preferably quickly and with little resistance)…

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Obsessing over your bills? Relax you heathen! God’s got this 🙂 🙂

Scared about your child’s sickness? Have you met God The Healer ™ ??

… And the kind we know not to speak out loud.

What if God isn’t real?

What if God is real but not good?

Am I too dirty to be loved?

But there’s a third fear we often ignore: the kind we justify.


It isn’t hard to think of examples in our current political culture that make us fearful. Terrorists coming into the country legally and illegally. Guns that walk into schools and kill children. Jobs that can be taken and lost. We’ve reacted, as a post-industrialized world, to this fear. We’ve closed boarders and built walls. We demonize the other and praise the familiar. We type out essays into comment sections and hashtag expletives that communicate our anger.

All of it, out of fear. It’s understandable. You don’t want to die. Even more, you don’t want your children and loved ones to die. You can’t be destitute. You can’t lose everything you’ve built up and acquired. Where would you sleep? How would you eat? It’s completely understandable to build fences and walls to keep out all the things that scare you. It’s completely understandable.

And it’s an idol.

And like the golden calf at the bottom of a burning mountain, it needs to be destroyed.

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What if it’s okay to be okay?

Photo by Brianna Santellan on Unsplash

Last month I wrote a post that blew up. It was seen around the world and became our most popular post. It stirred meaningful, intentional conversation on my Facebook feed, in my messages, over texts and calls. How people felt pretty much boiled down to the same basic points.

People couldn’t agree what the root cause of the issue was, although a vast majority pointed to either loose morals or general divisiveness in the country that translated into actionable violence. I don’t completely disagree, but there’s a post coming about the “loose” morals many in the Christian community point to after times of mass tragedy.


Everyone agreed that America was the best country on Earth, which is good. For the record, I am proud to be an American. I love this country. In the book I’m writing (hopefully out at the end of the year but at this point I wouldn’t hold my breath), I write an essay about love, particularly the kind I believe in, the only kind that matters. The kind that loves you in spite of your faults but is not blind to them. Love that is afraid to mention your faults is not love. If I’m wrong, doing something that’s hurting me, or if there are identifiable ways I can improve myself, I expect the people who truly love me to be courageous in addressing those things to me.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that most people who commented, love the same way I do, not blind but also unconditionally. People responded well to my criticisms, and offered some of their own, but none of us buckled on our love for the country. That should be encouraging to all of us, especially as we gear up for another grueling presidential campaign. I hope you hold that tension well. That you love your country as you critique it, that you hold your American siblings in your heart as you tear them down.

The other universal I found in these responses, was the emphasis on freedoms Americans feel lucky to have. You know them well: freedom of speech, religion, arms, ideas. Relatively uninteresting. We hash out our freedoms over every medium almost constantly. It’s what our troops fight to protect. What we expect cops to honor. It’s what we yell at football players (both kinds) who kneel during anthems, and what we sing. What was interesting was where freedoms were placed in the conversation. They were used to answer the question “What is good about America” and not just that, but the unasked question “What makes America the best?”

We forget, in our conversations about freedom that it isn’t a uniquely American ideal. Maybe, perhaps, in the 1700’s, it was, but today, I can think of far more countries that have freedoms such as ours than do not. Most of this is a result of colonialist attitudes and Western influence that have raised like-minded nations to public, positive consciousness, while ignoring or smearing others. Still. We don’t exactly hold a monopoly on freedom. And what if that’s okay?

What if it’s okay to love the country and not have a good reason why? What if it’s okay to be an okay country, to be proud of that, but not to be the best, or better than everyone else?

Is it possible to believe that you were born in the best way at the best time in the best place, while also living in the tension that the place you live is not better than everywhere else? Can it be both?

Are we okay being okay?

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