Two churches in Shelby, North Carolina are making a statement that commitment to God is more important than service to government by flying the Christian flag above the American flag.
Elizabeth Baptist Church and Focus Missionary Baptist Church are partnering in a “God Before Government” movement aimed at the Church with the symbolic gesture, which falls just a week after the Supreme Court of the United States’ 5–4 ruling in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.
“The attention we want to get is the attention of the church,” said Rit Varriale, Elizabeth Baptist’s pastor. “It’s time for the church to wake up and stand up for what they believe in.”
“If you stop and think about it, [flag etiquette] is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches us,” Varriale explained to local media outlets. “We are first and foremost Christians who are called to serve the living God. … Before our accountability to government is our accountability to God.”
Varriale, a veteran Army Ranger and officer with the 82nd Airborne, warned, “If the church doesn’t stand up and articulate that we serve God first, we are setting ourselves up for failure, because the very next step for government coercion,” noting the controversial attempt by the city of Houston to subpoena sermons by five local pastors last year, “will be the pulpit.”
The pastors of both churches claim reactions to the symbol have been mostly positive so far, with some detractors online.