Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pinned Down

Pinned Down

Our eldest son went to Law School at Washington and Lee, a fact of which I never tire bragging. Our visits to Lexington are among  the happiest memories of our married life. On several occasions in the 13 years since he graduated we have returned to the little town we like so much.

A few weeks ago I had opportunity to make another pilgrimage. I visited the church where Stonewall Jackson was a communicant and deacon and visited the house where he read 2 Corinthians 5 with his wife before he accompanied the VMI cadets to Richmond, never to see his home again. I went to the Lee Chapel and again wished I had the character of that man. So sentimental am I that I was moved visiting the grave of Traveller outside the chapel.

When I visited the museum shop below the chapel I made one purchase – a pin with the Great Seal of the Confederacy. My thought was that I would wear it sometimes as a lapel pin. But where?

I have faced the same dilemma before. I have a pin the Governor of Mississippi always wears to honor the troops, the pin of the Mississippi National Guard. I have worn it once, to a political event at which he spoke. I have a Rotary pin I have worn nowhere except to Rotary Banquets. I have pins penned up in a box.

Why? I attend a church where the majority of men still wear suits on Sunday mornings. So I have a lapel on which to wear my new pin, but I don’t.

I don’t wear it, not because I am embarrassed by it, nor because I am ashamed of the cause which it represents. I don’t wear it for this reason: The church is a spiritual body that transcends all externals.  In the church we can distinguish to some extent between officers and people, between communicants and non-communicants, between men and women. But we may not separate ourselves from one another because of nationality, or ethnicity, or race, or political persuasion or anything else that is not spiritual.

It is Flag Day, and my American flag is flying. (It is a curious thing about Southerners that, though we are the section of the country that was coerced by military might to remain in the United States and then was reconstructed by an occupying army, we are the most openly patriotic of Americans.) But I don’t want to see any flag flying outside the church and, please, never inside. How incongruous that should have a baptismal font to which we call all who profess faith and their children and a Communion Table to which we invite all communicants of our own and other evangelical congregations while in the backdrop stands the flag of the United States.

“Our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). When we gather in worship and at the Table the only citizenship that matters is of the kingdom which is not and cannot be of this world.

Had the South prevailed in the War and had it continued the institution of slavery for awhile, it’s great ecclesiastical challenge, which it would have failed, would have been: Who are our members? Whatever our stations in life, do we worship together, sitting as one people of the Lord, communing with Christ at one Table.

I thought that, though I would not wear my pin on Sundays, I might wear it to a Presbytery meeting, as I have a couple of friends whose noses I would like to tweak by wearing it. But, principle prevails. Since Presbytery is a gathering of the church I cannot wear it there either.

My pin lies on my bedside table. It will eventually go to my box where it will await a suitable occasion on which to be worn. Maybe a political rally?  

1 comment:

Rod said...

Outstanding thoughts. I am regularly perplexed by the fact that the more conservative American denominations (Presbyterians, Baptists) split during the War (so we had the PCUS and the PCUSA), while the more liberal denominations (Episcopal) did not. I think, in this case, the liberals had it right - the Church is broader than national boundaries (or national divisions).