Everybody seemed to want to make the Poplar Park Community Church Council meeting a short one last Wednesday. Their minds were focused more on their plans for the Fourth of July than on the business of the church. You know, motion, second, all in favor … aye; new business, old business, motion to adjourn. Table everything complicated till the next meeting.
Keep it simple. That’s what Gerhardt Aschenbrenner thought he was doing when he made the motion to hang the congregation’s big American flag on the outside of the church and sing the national anthem at the end of the Sunday service on July 2. To him it was a no-brainer. “It’s a hymn after all,” he thought. “‘God shed his grace on thee.’ Even the liberals could sing that without raising a stink about separation of church and state.”
Asch thought he was letting his little light shine. He had no idea he was putting a match to the fuse of a time bomb.
Pastor Mitty could tell Sharissa Hawkins was trying hard to be respectful when she responded to the commander of the VFW who was also twice her age. “Asch,” she began, “you know that I respect the sacrifices you made for our country, and I really mean it when I say ‘one nation under God’ during the Pledge of Allegiance, but Trump …”
Gerhardt interrupted the social worker, “You mean President Trump, don’t you?”
Sharissa corrected herself. “Er, yeah, President Trump” she mumbled halfheartedly. “I think we have to recognize the context here. President Trump has beaten this America First drum so loudly that I’m afraid when the word got around town, people would interpret what we did as supporting our turning inward as a nation.”
“I would hope so,” Asch replied. “We’re not God. You’re a social worker, so you know we’re doing a terrible job of taking care of our own people. But instead, this globalism fantasy motivated Obama …”
Sharissa interrupted the staunch Republican, “You mean President Obama, right?”
“Er, right, President Obama. But he and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and those liberal elites from New York and California have spent billions on what they call aid to the countries in the Middle East, and look where it’s gotten us. ISIS is using captured American weapons to kill our own troops over there.”
Sharissa realized she was getting nowhere, so she tried another tactic. “If we hung an American flag on the right side of church entry,” she began, “how would you feel about hanging an Israeli flag on the other side of the front door?”
Asch sensed that his fellow church member was setting him up, but he couldn’t help himself. “I can’t believe you’re proposing that, Sharissa. Of course. I’d love it. God promised King David that his line would rule the Promised Land till the end of time.”
“So,” Sharissa began slowly, unable to hide a slight smile, “you’re agreeing that America isn’t the only nation under God?”
Asch realized he had taken the bait, but the good soldier in him wouldn’t let him retreat once he heard the bugler call the troops into action.
“And what about the British Union Jack,” Sharissa continued, “and the German flag. It was German immigrants who started this congregation over a hundred years ago. Putting up the German flag next to the Stars and Stripes would be a way of honoring our heritage. African Americans like me are all for respecting where we come from.”
Asch chose not to reply. There’s no honor in continuing a charge when you figure out that the enemy has tactically out foxed you.
Ever the diplomat, Dominique made a suggestion. “Why don’t we do what Asch proposed?” he began. “We’ll sing the National Anthem at the end of the service, but in addition we’ll send out an email blast encouraging everyone to wear costumes which reflect where they came from. Sharissa, you wear a dashiki and Gerhardt, you can wear your lederhosen. That would honor the fact that Americans have come from many lands.
“And then we’ll have the children sing, ‘Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white. They are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Whether the council liked Dominique’s proposal or they just wanted to get the meeting over with, Pastor Mitty couldn’t tell, but the motion passed unanimously.
As Mitty approached his house, he saw his neighbor Michael Rosenthal sitting out on his front porch, so he vented his frustration to his friend about how contentious church people can be and how Dominique had saved the day.
After listening to the whole story, Michael said, “If we had a proposal like that in our temple’s council, Rabbi Levine would have gone to the Talmud and quoted several rabbis on the subject. Just curious, Walt. Did anyone bother to ask, ‘What would Jesus do?'”