By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
July 10, 2015
SHELBY – Born in Shelby, North Carolina, there is a new movement afoot. It started during the July 4th weekend when two churches, Elizabeth Baptist Church and Focus Missionary Baptist Church, in a symbolic gesture that violates flag etiquette, decided to fly the Christian flag above the American flag on their churches’ flag poles.
Elizabeth Baptist pastor, Rit Varriale, said that he was already planning to launch the “God Before Government Movement,” when one day he noticed that Focus Missionary Baptist was flying their Christian flag above the American flag at their church. This prompted him to seek out the pastor, which led to the discovery that they had similar concerns for the country.
Focus Missionary Pastor Walter Wilson, who had been flying the Christian flag above the American flag for several weeks, said that one day while he was hoisting the flags, God’s Spirit spoke to him and said that He should always be put first. “Everything we do, we’re supposed to acknowledge Him first,” Wilson told the Gaston Gazette. “He told me to put the flag above the American flag.”
Varriale said that Wilson’s obedience to God inspired him not only to do the same, but to use the switching of the two flags as a means of sending a critical message – the message that God comes before government.
Varriale told the Biblical Recorder (BR), the journal of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, “If you stop and think about it [flag etiquette] is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches us,” he said. “We are first and foremost, Christians who are called to serve the living God.” He also referenced the national motto, which says, “In God We Trust.” He said the statement approved by Congress and signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, “acknowledges that there is a Divine Being to whom we are all accountable, and that is our greatest authority. Before our accountability to government is our accountability to God.” he said.
Flying of the Christian flag above the American; falls on the heels of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Varriale told the Gaston Gazette, however, that the timing was “providential more than coincidental.” He argues that the government has been creating a clash been religious rights and individual rights going all the way back to school prayer. He says it’s time for churches to wake up and take a stand against government overreach and the infringement of religious liberties.
In an interview with Fox News’ Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Hasselbeck shared with Varriale that the flag move had sparked an outrage on social media, and she queried as to whether it was “a fight for faith, or a slam to old Glory.”
Varriale insisted the act to switch the flags was not meant to show disrespect, but to pay proper homage to God. Varriale said, “I’m a veteran. I love our country. I went to the Citadel. I’m incredibly patriotic.” He said that as part of the Armed Services, he was prepared to defend with his own life the right of someone to burn the American flag, to spit on it, or to walk on it. But he adds he was “willing to serve in order to protect the right of people to be able to express their religious beliefs as well….that’s exactly what we are doing here.”
He added that the religious freedom of many veterans was currently being suppressed by the government. “[T]hat’s not something that can happen,” said Varriale. “We need to stand up for what we believe in; and as religious citizens, we have all the right to do that.”
Varriale has also posted a “God Before Government” web site, to educate others about the movement and encourage pastors and churches to join in. He told the BR, “If a church already has a flagpole, start flying the flags in that order. If they don’t have a flagpole, go get one, and fly the flags in that order, so any person who drives by their church will see the Christian flag in the highest place and know they are driving by a church that has made the commitment to honor God before anything else.”
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, says that pastor Varriale and the “God Before Government” movement are what he has been praying for, as well as preaching about for almost two decades.
“There are so many erroneous views about Christians and their involvement in politics that have essentially anesthetized, even paralyzed the church, from engaging the culture. I suggest Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” means that we are required to seek the good of our neighbor in every aspect of society, including efforts to bring about good government and just public policies,” Creech said.
Dr. Creech added that he had heard people say that you can’t legislate morality to ad nauseam. “I suggest that you can’t legislate anything but morality,” he quipped. “In fact, every time legislation is codified somebody’s value system is imposed on all of us whether we like it or not. The problem is that Christians have been disengaged from the political process for so long that they have created a vacuum that wicked people have filled and those folks are legislating their morality,” he said. “Now we’re seeing a moral melt-down greater than any other in our nation’s history, largely because of our decades-long absence from the public arena. Our failure to preach the whole Gospel, the Gospel as it also relates to the politics of the day, not only now threatens to undo our country, but also erase freedom of religion.”
Dr. Creech urged churches to get on board with the “God Before Government” movement.
“If I was a pastor, I would ask my church to fly the Christian flag atop the American flag too,” said Dr. Creech. “I agree with this symbolism that sends a message to our country that contends our security and hope of problem solving and future prosperity is to return to putting God first and government second. It also says to our government, ‘Take note! We will not obey your laws when they require us to disobey God.’”
Although flying the Christian flag above the American flag is a breach of the U.S. Flag Code, no civil penalties can be administered.
Read Dr. Richard Land’s Editorial, God First, Then Country