NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Marking Independence Day a day early, employees from the Southern Baptist Convention offices in downtown Nashville were joined by LifeWay Christian Resources workers from across the street at midday July 3 to honor the nation’s Christian heritage.
The SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission organized the event, billed as time to “celebrate our freedom and pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States, along with the Christian flag, and the Bible as God’s Word.”
Richard Land, ERLC president and host of the nationally syndicated radio talk show, Richard Land Live!, told the nearly 200 people gathered around the U.S. flag and the Christian flag poles in front of the SBC Building he was unashamedly proud to be an American.
“Now I don’t confuse being an American with being a Christian,” Land added. “My faith in Jesus and my loyalty to God comes before my loyalty to country.” Yet he expressed gratitude for the nation’s “liberty of conscience” and “freedom of speech” that he said is unmatched by any country in history.
In preparing to lead the crowd in the pledges to the U.S. flag, the Christian faith and the Bible, Land said he learned long ago in Vacation Bible School that the pledges are not given in happenstance order. “Our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus and to the Bible. Our allegiance is to God, not a Caesar, even an American Caesar,” he said.
Land also took the opportunity to castigate the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled June 26 the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional in a public school context because it contains the phrase “under God.”
He said while “under God” was not added to the pledge until 1954 — a point of contention for the judges — “in God is our trust” has for practical purposes been the United State’s motto since 1814, noting its inclusion in the fourth verse of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
“There are some rabidly secularist judges who seem to be concentrated on the Ninth Circuit of Appeals,” Land said, “They want to take away any public expression of God.
“There is loose in the American bloodstream a philosophy represented by this decision that wants to secularize America,” he noted. As a Baptist, Land said, he favors a secular state that does not favor one religion or no religion over another religion.
“Yet there is a difference between a secular state in which we are all free to express our own faith according to the dictates of our own conscience and a secularized society in which any form of religion is rabidly opposed in the public square,” Land explained. The latter wants to reduce God to a hobby, something done in private and having nothing to do with public policy, he continued.
“Some want to shove religion to the margins of our culture,” he said.
Jack Wilkerson, vice president for business and finance of the SBC Executive Committee, closed the event in prayer, expressing thanks for the United States and asking God’s blessings on the country. He prayed for the president and the nation’s leaders, thanking God for the guidance his Word provides.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: GOD & COUNTRY, UNDERSCORING ALLEGIANCE and AMERICA’S HERITAGE.