Monday, July 8, 2024

Today, on the Christian History Almanac, we head to the mailbag to answer a question about flags, Christian and otherwise.

It is the 8th of July 2024. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac, brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.


A very happy Monday to you- I’m somewhere up near the Sequoia’s, a Christian Camp on a lake named for a Scottish Skeptic….

We head to the mailbag, as is our custom on the second day of the week. Again, friend of the show Chris in Greenville, South Carolina, came through with the shortest question in CHA mailbag history.  

He notes that Greenville is the home of Duke’s Mayonnaise—IF appropriate, I use Kraft—but out of brand recognition more than anything else. Greenville was also home to Joel Poinsett, a doctor, botanist, diplomat to South America, and the man for whom the Poinsettia is named. It’s a fascinating story.

Chris sent me a photo of the “Christian Flag” with the question: This flag. What gives? 

It is the primarily white flag with a blue box in the left-hand corner (called a Canton) and a red cross in it.

It dates from 1897 when a superintendent of Sunday Schools in New York had to fill in for an absent speaker and went on an improvisational jag about flags and a “Christian Flag,” and such a flag was born.

It beat out in popularity, thankfully, another proposed flag with a Crusaders cross and the words “By This Sign Conquer,” so…

The Christian flag would be red, white, and blue—various explanations have been given for those: red equals the blood of Christ, white is purity, etc. It being red, white, and blue is as much a coincidence with the American flag as the American flag is coincidentally the colors of the British flag—which is to say it is not a coincidence at all.

The cross is a “standard” Latin cross—here in the West, that’s just the common cross. There are many, and perhaps the variations can be a question for another time.

Some might note that the red Latin cross is auspicious, as it was the red cross—Cruzador—that marked those “crusaders” to the Holy Land—but these were the days when “Crusaders” were another option for the local high school mascot.

The history of the flag is both very ancient and very new. We have evidence of flags, banners, and the like all the way back with the ancient Egyptians and Chinese- which is to say, as long as we’ve been doing history with people, there have been flags of sorts. They are, essentially, ways of identifying yourself- naming yourself to others.

But the flags that we know today? Well, Old Stars and Stripes (at least the general idea) is a relatively old flag, as the practice developed with late 19th-century nationalism and the wars of the 20th century.

Prior to this, flags tended to represent a patron saint: for instance, the red cross on white for England is St. George’s flag, the red X on white is St. Patrick’s flag for Ireland, and the White X on a blue background is St. Andrew's flag for Scotland. If you superimpose all three on top of each other, you get the “Union Jack” flag for the UK you know today.

This is to say that the Christian flag might be an example of the world doing something and saying, “We want that too!” It might be a reminder of one's ultimate allegiance—there is a pledge for the Christian flag—well, three because of a fight. But you’ve got your pick. 

There are semi-official rules. The U.S. Flag Code requires all other flags to fly lower than the Stars and Stripes, causing a stir about how you could have an American flag in your church but have it higher than the Christian flag. I have a wild idea, but nonetheless… an unofficial code claimed that if the Christian flag stood to the right of the American flag, it was in the highest place of honor.  

There is a good question: what if there was something of substance that said who we are that we could rally around and proclaim with a common foundation and hope…. Congratulations, you’ve just invented creeds.

All right, Chris. Stay cool out in South Carolina, home to your Gamecocks, who gave my Rams the gift of Ernest Jones IV, star linebacker.


The last word for today is from the daily lectionary from the Kaph portion of Psalm 119:

My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
    but I have put my hope in your word.

My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
    I say, “When will you comfort me?”

Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,

    I do not forget your decrees.

How long must your servant wait?

    When will you punish my persecutors?

The arrogant dig pits to trap me,
    contrary to your law.

All your commands are trustworthy;

    help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.

They almost wiped me from the earth,

    but I have not forsaken your precepts.

In your unfailing love preserve my life,

    that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 8th of July 2024, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man who told me his favorite flag is the municipal flag for the city of Tampa, Florida…. Cool. I’ll check it out. He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man who digs the flag for Zheleznogrosk, a Soviet region known for making plutonium. The flag is a bear wrestling an atom. True story: I’m Dan van Voorhis. 

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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