A fond, childhood memory was of my father reverently raising the flag of the United States on days of national importance. A Marine, like his father and grandfather before him, he would stand silently and watch the flag move in the breeze. He held a sense of awe for this country, and he believed the flag represented everything that was right about the United States.
He would point to it and say; that flag tells represents freedom. I have attempted to carry that tradition of raising the flag. My son and I would dutifully place it in a position of honor outside our home. This year it was difficult. The national media has been reporting on the immigration protests in a town called Murrietta (named for an immigrant - Esequial Murrieta) in the State of California (another Spanish word).
Women and children in an attempt to escape the economic oppression and daily terror in their home country have been arrested for entering the United States without proper documents. They were being transported in buses to a temporary holding facility before final deportation to their former “home.” After a treacherous journey of 1000 miles to escape gangs, extortion, rape, murder, these women and children were met by angry protesters.
The protesters blocked the buses from passing through to the facility. Many were waving the flag of the United States. The flag my father would hold so gently, was being held in anger. Softly flapping in the California wind, the flag of the United States would be forever etched in the memory of those impoverished women and children as a symbol of rejection. My father would have shed a tear.
In public life, we call ourselves a Christian country. We use phrases like “freedom and democracy” or “the chance for a better life.” It all sounds true; we tend to intervene in situations where liberation for oppression is a pressing national concern. Many of the appeals to our highest national identity emphasize the long held belief that we are the promised land: “And may He continue to hold us close as we fill the world with our sound—sound in unity, affection, and love—one people under God, dedicated to the dream of freedom that He has placed in the human heart, called upon now to pass that dream on to a waiting and hopeful world.” (Ronald Reagan, Second Inaugural).
The women and children waiting on the bus were hopeful, and they found despair. The women and children silently watched as our flag was waved in anger at their presence. These children of God on that bus were told they could not enter “our kingdom.”
I would never assume that can speak for our Holy Creator or actually know what God is thinking. I like to believe, however, that through prayer, grace, silence and the Bible - God sent his Son with a message of love and inclusion. It is meant for everyone. I like to believe that God does not draw lines or borders, favor nationalities, or wave flags, or differentiate by standing, skin color or social class. Only that Jesus said, " Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. "
I like to believe that most Americans have a greater love for humanity and inherent compassion than what was reported at Murrieta. I pray that compassion still exists and because of this hope in humanity, we walked outside and unfurled the flag. I watched as my son raised it with special reverence, and I thought of my father and the love he held for his country.
I then walked into my makeshift chapel and sat in silence, staring at the crucifix. I was reminded once again the beauty of the cross. The beautiful cross is where the love God meets the earth. That cross is where life come alive and is the only real place for me. It is the place where true transformation is found.
I blessed the people protesting in Murrietta and blessed the women and children on that bus as they journey toward hope. Although the flag was waved in anger, it will always hold special meaning. It reminds me of my father and his belief in this place called the United States. I could not allow hate to replace his dreams of good.
However, I am also reminded there is something stronger in this world, something greater than nationality or speeches. It is what moves me to an indescribable place that no flag, country or song can replace. It is that a wounded, beautiful man was nailed to a cross. The arms of Christ, open in love and acceptance, embracing all of humanity. I will honor the flag for my father, struggle when it is used in hate, however, my life and everything about me is with Jesus. I will always follow Him and all that the cross represents.
I pledge allegiance to the Lamb and to the Kingdom for which he stands.