A Lesson from Flag Burning...well kind of!? / by John Hailes

A number of people’s 4th July was marred in my town of Urbana, IL this week. A young man was arrested for burning an American Flag and posting it with choice comments on his social media. Thankfully, Facebook didn’t disappoint in producing lots of opinions on my timeline.

Being English I may never fully appreciate what the flag means to Americans. I don’t particularly even have an opinion on whether the man’s actions were acceptable or worthy of incarceration. If anything it is people’s strong reactions that have interested me the most.

However, I'm mainly interested in the narrative that is built in our children’s minds from an early age. I am also interested in how these events enforce the narrative they often already know.

There is no doubt in my mind that Americans are raised with a deep rooted pride in their country. From a young age they enjoy holidays that celebrate America and those who fight for America. They are raised to pledge allegiance to the flag of America. They hear the National Anthem each morning and at most sports events. They are also drilled with American history and the constitution.

Admittedly I don’t think any of these things are wrong but they do contribute towards building a Worldview in our kids that may not be Christ centered. As Next Generation leaders I believe it’s our job to encourage in our young people a healthy world view that is centered on Christ. Here are some ways we can do it…

1.     Celebrate America: Encourage thankfulness in your student’s hearts. America in many ways is a wonderful place to live. It isn’t a perfect place, but we must still encourage kids to be thankful for it.

2.     Don’t Pretend It’s Perfect: We can be thankful for a nation as well as being honest about the issues. Growing up in England it was important for me that I learned about the way the English treated people through the crusades and other military advancements. I’m thankful for the country I grew up in but I know it’s not perfect.

3.     Clarify God’s Kingdom: We must teach our kids that our true citizenship doesn’t reside in America, but in God’s Kingdom! My life shouldn’t be caught up in advancing this earthly kingdom but in God’s Kingdom. (Matt. 6:33).

4.     Explain God’s Family: I passionately believe that kids need to be aware that the body of Christ is more than just the Christians in their country or Church. Barriers are broken when we realize that God transcends the color of our skin or the type of passport we hold.

5.     Teach kids about the World: I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of only teaching about other countries when it comes to our ‘help the helpless’ missions windows. We must be careful that we don’t reinforce the attitude that ‘America is the greatest country’. Give kids a bigger view of the World and a more positive one too!!

It’s important in all things that we seek to address imbalances in our kids thinking. How can we balance their view of America and the World? What do you think? Do you think we need to balance it?