I read a news article today by Fox that was deeply troubling. In fact, my stomach hurts just thinking about it.
Today, while scrolling through my news-feed on Facebook, I came across an article uploaded by Fox titled “Sheriff Joe Arpaio puts inmates on ‘bread and water’ for flag desecration.” The title thoroughly intrigued me, so I read on. I won’t type out the whole article, but I will attach the link at the end of my quote for those who are interested in reading the whole thing:
“Controversial Arizona Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, says 38 inmates have rebelled against his new policy of putting American flags in jail cells, desecrating the Stars and Stripes and earning them what he calls a diet of bread and water…Arpaio said that any inmate who damages a flag will be eating the so-called nutra-loaf- without utensils- for two weeks…”I run a patriotic jail system,” said Arpaio. “I am somewhat disappointed that 38 inmates recently desecrated the flags, tearing them up and writing on them and throwing them in the toilet.”…The Maricopa County sheriff has made headlines in the past for making prisoners wear pink underwear and questioning President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. A federal judge ruled last year that his office has racially profiled Latinos, a decision the five-term sheriff is appealing. The Arizona Civil Liberties Union said it did not have a comment on Arpaio’s flags-in-cells program or the punishment he’s devised. “This is not a First Amendment situation,” Arpaio said. “When they tamper with the flag, they are tampering with government property.””
In another article that was written about this situation, it said:
“The flags are part of a push for patriotism in county jail cells that includes listening to the “Star-Spangled Banner” every morning and “God Bless America” every night over the intercom system.”
But what was even more disturbing was reading the comments below the article on Facebook: “They all deserved to by hanged.” “Joe should be our next President!” “Good for Joe! Giving those people what they deserve for disrespecting the greatest nation on Earth.” “We should kill them all!” My heart ached and is still aching as I write this now.
America, what is wrong with us. I’m going to be talking about a few things about this article, but first, let’s talk about the good ole’ American flag. Have we gone so far to the point where we want to hang a flag, A FLAG, in a jail cell? I want to talk about this flag for a minute, because I think as a follower of Jesus Christ it is important to address it. I understand that there are many patriotic people out there and that’s fine, you can be patriotic if you’d like to be because this is America and we have that freedom. However, I’m about to tell you something important, so listen in. Jesus doesn’t care. Jesus doesn’t care about your flag, about your national anthem, about your fourth of July parades, about your pledge of allegiance. He has no room for that in His Kingdom. We cannot serve both an empire and Jesus, it doesn’t work like that. You see, being born again, being a follower of Jesus, it radically dissolves national borders. There are none. In other words, no one is illegal. Everyone is your family. If you are waging war on someone in Iraq, you are waging war on your own family, your own blood. So when we hold up this flag and put it above the cross, and when we continue to support the killings of thousands, we are separating ourselves from Christ. It shouldn’t matter who is an American and who isn’t. Shane Claiborne puts it beautifully when he says “Maybe it would have been better if the church had taught politics that EVERYBODY is made in God’s image, no matter what lines are drawn in the sand.” If your church has an American flag in it, hang the Iraqi or Afghan flag beside it to remember everyone suffering from the horrors of war and terrorism.
On January 9, 1945, President Truman spoke after dropping the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. He said, “Having found the atomic bomb, we have used it. We shall continue to use it…It is an awful responsibility which has come to us. We thank God that the atomic bomb has come to us instead of to our enemies and we pray that he may guide us to use it in his ways and for his purposes.”
For some reason, all throughout history Presidents who have waged wars have done them in the name of God. Shane Claiborne writes “These prayers are usually understood to be Christian prayers. But Christian prayers are made to or in the name of Jesus, who loved, prayed for, and forgave his enemies and who instructed his followers to do likewise.” Waging wars in the name of God, calling people our “enemies”…but to them, aren’t we their enemies? Aren’t we their terrorists? These are important questions to ask ourselves everyday. I cannot begin to stress how important it is to put yourself in the shoes of a man or woman who is on the opposite side of Americans. When you do that, you might begin to see why he/she is on the opposite side, and this whole following Jesus thing begins to make a lot more sense.
Now referring back to the article, I’m not 100% sure (and either is Joe) on why the inmates were destroying the flag. But from my stand point, I applaud them. I applaud them because they no longer will let a flag rule over them. They no longer will worship a flag or what it stands for. What if maybe, just maybe, (and this is a long stretch but it’s possible) these people got a glimpse of what it truly means to follow Jesus? What if they defied the symbol of “American freedom” because they found a greater freedom in Jesus? What if they left the Roman Empire in their minds (America) and became a citizen of the Kingdom of God, where everyone of all nationalities is welcomed? What if that’s the point they’re making, guys. And what if, as followers of Jesus, we are called to make that same exact point. And what if maybe, just maybe, we need to stop asking God to just bless America, and start asking God to bless the whole world. One Kingdom, one nation, one people.
“Maybe it’s time for Christians all over the world to lay down the flags of their nations and together raise the banner of God. The Christian icon is not the Stars and Stripes, but a cross-flag, and it’s emblem is not a donkey, an elephant, or an eagle, but a slaughtered lamb.” – Shane Claiborne