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Most American Pastors Say It’s Important for Churches to Get Patriotic on July 4

Most American Pastors Say It’s Important for Churches to Get Patriotic on July 4

The United States’ birthday is just around the corner and, along with it, an old debate about just how American churches should celebrate. For most American pastors, however, the debate is settled. A new study from Lifeway says most pastors think churches should get patriotic for Independence Day.

56 percent of all Protestant pastors surveyed agree that it’s important to “incorporate patriotic elements into worship services” the week of July 4, and 27 percent say they strongly agree. About 42 percent disagree and the rest say they “aren’t sure.” The number who agree has taken a slight dip from 2016, when 61 percent of Protestant pastors said they agree, but it’s still a healthy majority.

“While not a date on the Christian calendar, most Protestant churches adjust their worship services to acknowledge the birth of the United States each July,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “For most churches, it isn’t just tradition. The majority of pastors agree it’s important to incorporate it into the worship experience.”

Interestingly, there appears to be correlation to education here. Pastors with no college degree or a bachelor’s are more likely to agree that churches should celebrate July 4 while pastors with a master’s or doctoral degree are less likely. Likewise, evangelicals (64 percent) or more likely to agree than mainstream Protestants (48 percent).

Recognizing July 4 can look like a lot of things for churches, involving everything from recognizing veterans, honoring families who have lost loved ones in the service and playing patriotic music.

And patriotic displays can transcend Independence Day. About two-thirds of pastors see nothing wrong with displaying the American flag in church all year long, while 28 percent disagree. “Some denominations offer specific guidance regarding displaying the American flag, but most congregations decide on their own whether it’s present,” McConnell said. “Because a national flag is a symbol, it often means many different things to different people. So, discussions around the reason for its presence in many churches can be just as diverse.”

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