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April 15, 2011

Religious Americans More Likely to Display Flag

A new poll suggests that 78 percent of religious people display the American flag while 58 percent of nonreligious people do the same. The poll finds that evangelicals are the most likely to show off the stars and stripes.

The American flag is a ubiquitous part of life in the United States. People pin it to their jackets, hang it outside their homes, and stick it to the bumpers of their cars. In its March 30-April 3 survey, Pew Research Center for the People and the Press asked 1,507 Americans if they “display the American flag, in places such as at your home or office, or on your car or clothing.” Three-quarters of Americans said they displayed the flag.

Showing off the American flag is most common among those who belong to a religious tradition; 78 percent of religious Americans show off the flag. More than 80 percent of evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Catholics display the flag. Black Protestants are slightly less likely to do so, but overall the differences between religious groups are small and are not statistically different from each other.


Together, members of these religious traditions are more likely to display the flag than those who are not affiliated with a religion. About one-fifth of Americans are not actively part of a religion. Only 58 percent of these unaffiliated display the flag.

Even though the flag is a national symbol, it is more likely to be displayed by those on the right than the left. The vast majority of political conservatives display the flag (87 percent). Liberals (55 percent) and moderates (75 percent) were less likely to do so.

Pew also asked about the flag as part of a series of questions on the Confederate flag and the American Civil War, which began 150 years ago this week.

The war may have occurred one and a half centuries ago, but a majority of Americans (56 percent) believe that the Civil War is still relevant to American politics today. One-third of Americans said it was appropriate for public officials to praise Civil War leaders, and more Americans (48 percent) said the war was mainly caused by states' rights (38 percent said it was about slavery). There were few differences between different religious groups on these items.


Eight percent of Americans display the Confederate Flag. About a third of adults (30 percent) have a negative reaction to seeing the stars and bars. Only 9 percent have a positive reaction. A majority (58 percent) feel neither positive nor negative.

White evangelicals have a more positive reaction to the Confederate flag (15 percent), which is higher than the positive feelings among mainline Protestants, Catholics, and those with no religion. About the same number of black Protestants (13 percent) also feel positive feelings toward the Southern symbol.

However, the key answer to this question may be the percentage saying that they feel negative toward the Confederate flag. Four-in-ten African-Americans have a negative reaction when they see the flag, compared to only three-in-ten whites. So while white evangelicals and Black Protestants have the same percentage feeling positive toward the Confederate flag, black Protestants were twice as likely to have a negative reaction (39 percent vs. 21 percent).


It's easier to display a flag than to show the love of Christ, so why am I not surprised?

I find it a little unsettling that so-called Christians are more likley to display the flag. I do feel blessed to live in the United States. At the same time, by displaying the flag prominently, a person can give the impression that s/he is outwardly more American than Christian.

And I don't believe that you can be equally committed to Christ and the United States. It's either one or the other.

For those of you who believe that it is extremely important for Christians to display the American flag in a prominent manner, would you please explain why by using Scripture?

Also, imagine if a Christian stood up and said, "I am proud to be an American. But my citizenship is, first and foremost, in heaven. So I don't want to display the flag." Would that person be less of a Christian?

It is not an either/or persuasion. You can be a proud American and a believer in Christ. Obviously it is not a criteria for salvation. However, my great uncles and grandfather fought and paid the ultimate price for you to have the freedom to say how much you hate evangelical patriots. It is no sin to love your country and your God. Ask yourself why you want to muck it up with anti-American comments. What is your goal? If you are an American just what do you want to leave to future generations? You speak of evangelicals love love loving everyone...well how about loving this country that gives you the freedom to worship openly.
And Staffington, it doesn't make you less of a Christian it just makes you less of an American.

Dear Proud American:

(1) I don't hate evangelical patriots. Here is my main concern: Love of flag may become an idol, and Christians may not realize that it can become an idol. That's how insidious it can be. According to Scripture, your allegiance can only to to God or to something else. There is nothing in between.

(2) Where exactly are my anti-American comments? I carefully read over each and every word of my post, and I can't find anything that can be remotely described as anti-American. Maybe the fact that I am even questioning the display of the flag is anti-American?

This is for Proud American.

If I am less of an American for not displaying the flag, who cares? (And that's your opinion.) Being reconciled to God, receiving salvation, and then living a Christ-like life are the most important things in the world.

The Bible tells Christians to honest law abiding citizens, but nowhere does it tell us to be patriotic.