A New Christian Flag
The present design for the Christian flag features the very American colors of red, white, and blue. Considering the designers Charles C. Overton (fl. 1907) and Ralph Diffendorfer (1879–1951) were from the United States, this is not surprising. However, if we Christians are to have a flag, then we should have one which represents believers from around the world that features politically neutral colors. After all, the church includes Jesus' followers from all nations, so a Christian flag should be accessible to everyone. Moreover, such a design should have colors derived from scripture rather than a national symbol. As it stands, the current flag even has its own "Pledge of Allegiance," a creed-like statement unique to the American citizen. This is not to denigrate the United States, the home of this ministry. However, the Christian church is multiethnic and began in Jerusalem about two millennia before U.S. independence in 1776.
This proposed Christian flag receives its inspiration from the tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl that also inspires the modern Israeli flag. Its pattern derives from the Old Testament, specifically when God told the ancient Israelites to make tassels (Hebrew: tzitzit; H6734) for their cloaks with blue and white threads (Num. 15:38, 40; Deut. 22:12). The tallit's function is to hold them onto an over-shirt so the wearer does not have to sew tassels onto all their clothing. The gospel writers also mentioned them when they narrated stories of ailing people who reached for Jesus' tzitzit to receive healing from him (Matt. 14: 35-36; Mark 6:56; Luke 8:43-44). Therefore, the symbolism of the tallit includes both Old and New Testament relevance. The present Christian flag does not call us to remember the Jewish roots of our faith, whereas this proposal does just that.
However, the early church was very clear to bring gentiles into their assemblies. Therefore, the Christian flag must also represent a gentile heritage without borrowing from ancient paganism or contemporary patriotism. To select a color without favoring a specific culture or nationality is difficult. Therefore, evergreen silhouettes Jesus' cross, which is the liturgical color with the longest time in the church calendar. It symbolizes eternal life, taking its meaning from the lasting green hues of an evergreen tree. Gentiles were grafted into Israel's olive tree, representing the Jewish identity of God's chosen people (Rom. 11:17-24). This word also comes to us from agriculture. Moreover, the green color of the cross alludes to the church taking a symbol of death and turning into one of life.
The tallit pattern overlaps the cross first to represent Christ's salvation "to the Jew first, then to the Greek [i.e., gentile]" (Rom. 1:16). It also refers to the titulus that Pontius Pilate added to Jesus' cross which read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews" (John 19:19). The white background conveys how Jews and gentiles maintain their distinctions, but find commonality in Jesus (Gal. 3:28). It also symbolizes the peace of Christ and his victory over evil. However, the cross overlaps the bottom line of the tallit pattern, not to say the church replaces the Jews, but to emphasize God's plan for Jesus to be crucified as the metanarrative of Israel's history.
© CO/CF Ministry
Coffman, Elesha. "Do You Know the History of the Christian Flag?" Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 2008. https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/do-you-know-history-of-christian-flag.html.
General Board of Global Ministries. "Diffendorfer, Ralph (1879–1951)." Methodist Mission Bicentennial. Atlanta: United Methodist Church, 2019. https://methodistmission200.org/diffendorfer-ralph-1879-1951.
Gesling, Linda. Mirror and Beacon: The History of Mission of the Methodist Church, 1939–1968. New York: General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church, 2005. p. 74.