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Churches Experiment with Patriotism

The American flag has replaced the cross as the most visible symbol in many churches across the country since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

At a Baptist church in Antioch, Tenn., the United States flag is wound around the cross, overlooking the highway.
Inside Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, church leaders unfurled a 50-foot flag as patriotic music filled a Sunday worship service.
“It makes you feel good,” Colleen Holleman, one of the worshippers, told the Dallas Morning News. “I’ve cried buckets. Seeing the flag makes you feel better.”
But some Christians say it’s not appropriate to worship a nation “when God is the God of the whole world,” said Ronald Flowers, a religion professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. “It’s always been a very complicated and very sensitive issue.”
Protestant churches often display American and Christian flags in the corners of sanctuaries or lobbies.
“You would never hear patriotic music in an Orthodox church,” said the Rev. Justin Frederick, a priest at St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral in Dallas. “That doesn’t mean we disregard the civil authorities. We pray for them in every service. It’s just that we have a higher allegiance and a higher authority.”
Jim Norris, music director at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richardson, Texas, said, “the Mass is not a place to promote nationalism. If this type of music is done too often and in the wrong spirit, it can create a national self-righteousness and a tendency to over-vilify our enemies.”