Providence Today: The American Flag

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
Here at the National Constitution Center in the big open vestibule that welcomes you, there’s this marvelous display of flags that take you all the way around from a panorama of the Philadelphia skyline to Independence Hall on the far side. As you take a look at the panorama of state flags and the territories, they all represents the constitution of the United States and the order in which they were admitted to the Union or as a territory. But prominently displayed is the great red, white, and blue, the American banner. The red, white, and blue represents, if you will, the union of all the states and the original colonies. We can see it as we look at it, that it has the red and white stripes representing the 13 original colonies. And then we have in the canton, the 50 five-pointed stars on the field of blue representing each of the states.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
Now, as we look at that, we see a great deal of history. It’s interesting, symbols have a historical story that you will not fully know unless you do some research. First of all, the vertical red and white stripes actually are probably best connected with the Sons of Liberty back in Boston in the year of 1765. We find vertical red and white stripes still on the American flag of the US Coast Guard. They keep them vertical just like this. You should know that when a flag is hung in this form, the long way down, the canton should be up in the upper left corner. That is the proper place of how it should be. Further, that there was an idea that each time a new state would be added, they would add a new stripe to the flag.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
And so when we think about our national anthem, Francis Scott Key’s great story of The Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that was flying over Fort McHenry, the banner that was still there by the twilight, and then also in the dawn’s gleam, it was a 15 striped flag. They realized though, if you kept adding another stripe for each state, pretty soon, they would blend together and you’d lose the ability to recognize the flag as the banner of America. It would just become a washed color. And so they said we will limit it to just the original 13.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
Now, another thing we need to remember is that the colors were consciously selected. When the great seal of the United States was selected in the original Continental Congress, it tells us that the seal with the escutcheon or the shield on the front, that you can actually see on the back of a dollar bill, that has that shield with the blue at the top and the red and white stripes, it shows those colors. Even though you only see them in green on the back of a dollar, they identify the colors. Remember what they stand for? Red: hardiness and valor, white: purity and innocence, blue: perseverance, vigilance, and justice.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
When we look at the great American flag, do we remember the moral values our founder said that the whole heralded tradition called on people to replicate and represent in their lives? How hearty and how courageous are we as Americans today? How pure, how innocent are we as American citizens today? As people who love our country, how much are we committed to persevering through the good as well as the bad times? Are we willing to seek justice, to do what is right for our neighbors? As Martin Luther King quoted from the Old Testament prophet, Amos, “Let justice roll down like mighty rivers.” And then vigilance, vigilance, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. These very values, when we see our flag, are what make America possible. They bring us together.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
The ancient Christian theologian, St. Augustine said, “Every nation needs a symbol.” The symbol is what brings people in unity. The church has its symbols. We know of the cross. We know of the broken bread. We know of the cup of wine. We know about the waters of baptism. Those symbols bring us together in spite of our many differences, we identify our unity. Every state needs a symbol. Every government needs a symbol. And this is the symbol of America. How tragic it is when people who are blessed with the liberties and blessings of this flag choose to despise it and burn it, choose to disgrace it, tear it down and put up another country’s flag in its place on American soil. That is not only a disrespect of those who defend it today, but those who’ve given their life blood that we might have our freedom.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
The Providence Forum exists not to say that America’s perfect, not to say that we’ve never made any mistakes, but to say there’s never been a country with such high, lofty values who’s done so much to try to preserve them. America’s had more power than any country in the history of the world and has done less to abuse its power through military might than any country with power. It is seeking to preserve those rights for the least to the greatest. That’s what makes America a unique nation in spite of our limitations.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
And so we want to encourage you to get our Faith and Freedom Guide and learn how faith has shaped America. Go online and get our Faith and Freedom app, and you’ll learn a great deal about the freedoms that are a blessing of America. Make sure you see providenceforum.org and learn more about some of our literature, like how other minorities were protected in America, not just the little state of Delaware, but the Jewish people that found freedom here. In fact, every one of us are protected by the freedoms of this country. No wonder we should be proud of the great gift of America and the providence of God that has made it possible. And this is Providence Today.

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