I rarely write a responses to pieces, but Laura Belin’s article at Bleeding Heartland complaining about Governor Kim Reynolds’ Facebook post caught my eye and warrants, I think a brief response.
First, here’s the Facebook post that Belin, a progressive Jewish blogger who covers Iowa politics, is complaining about:
Reynolds stands next to an elderly couple, the man, I presume is a veteran, who are wearing shirts that say, “I stand for the flag and I kneel for the cross.” Pictured is a silhouette of a soldier who is kneeling at the foot of the cross with the American flag in the background.
Reynolds post along with the picture reads, “Now these are shirts!”
Belin states that this Facebook post, made on Reynolds’ political Facebook page, not her official page as Iowa’s Governor, implies that “real Americans kneel for the cross.”
She writes, “The shirts she found appealing sent a clear message: real Americans and military service members are Christians.”
Let’s reiterate what the t-shirt says, “I stand for the flag and kneel for the cross.”
This is a personal statement. “I as an individual stand for the flag and kneel for the cross.”
Reynolds’ endorsement of the shirt, if that’s what she was doing, was saying, “Yes! I stand for the flag, and the only time I kneel is for the cross.”
does Reynolds or the t-shirt says, “This is what real Americans or military service members do.”
Belin makes a clumsy attempt at a theological argument by repeating something written by a United Methodist pastor:
As United Methodist Minister Morgan Guyton observed in a 2017 commentary about a similar image, “there’s nothing in this picture that resembles anything about Christianity.” The flag, the man with the gun, and the cross are “being used idolatrously, that is they are being tokenized for the sake of increasing the power and status of the person tokenizing them.” Furthermore, Guyton noted, “Any claim that Christianity is about standing and kneeling at the right time is complete blasphemy.”
It is important to point out that he responded to a different meme one that says, “Stand for the flag, kneel for the cross.” It has a cross embedded into an American flag, and it also has a silhouette of a soldier who is in a kneeling firing position.
The meme he addressed was not a personal statement, but a command. I agree with Pastor Guyton’s statement that claiming Christianity “is about standing and kneeling at the right time is complete blasphemy.”
He’s right that would be blasphemy. Christianity is about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Not that Belin cares about that, and that is not what this t-shirt states.
Also, the t-shirts are different because, as I mentioned before, make a personal declaration, not a command and the soldier appears to be kneeling in prayer, not shooting.
These remarks are not to say I’m a fan of the symbolism on the t-shirts; I’m not, I don’t care much about mixing patriotism with my faith in Christ. In my mind, that harkens American civil religion, not Christianity, but that’s a personal preference, not a theological conviction and people wearing t-shirts like this don’t bother me. That said, I do literally stand for the flag and figuratively kneel at the cross. I don’t take issue with this statement either.
Belin, citing Guyton’s argument, appears to accuse those wearing this t-shirt and those giving tacit approval, namely Reynolds, are somehow guilty of idolatry. They’re not, at least not based on this particular picture, t-shirt, and post anyway.
She also must believe our Governor shouldn’t be associated with this type of speech.
Does Reynolds no longer have a right to free speech, religion, and association anymore because she is Governor? Of course not, but Belin must believe that to be the case. The fact she spent time writing an article at Bleeding Heartland scrutinizing this simple Facebook post says far more about her than it does Reynolds.