Pastor Rit Varriale of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, North Carolina, is on a mission to encourage his fellow Christians to take a stand for their faith, but it's his decision to raise the Christian banner above the American flag at his church that has created a fair bit of controversy.
Varriale told The Church Boys podcast that he made the highly publicized decision to display the Christian flag, which has a white, blue and red design that was created back in 1897 to commemorate the faith — and is encouraging other churches to do the same — after years of discussions about how to best motivate believers to defend their faith.
"It's a conversation that we've been having for a number of years now, as we've been watching things transpire in our culture," he said, proclaiming that it's time for Christians to take a stand for their values. "We're watching Christian bakers, photographers, bed and breakfast owners be sued for anti-discrimination laws, and yet they should have the right to express their convictions as well."
Varriale also decried the "bullying" of small communities that he said has come at the hands of some First Amendment and atheists groups.
"We need to take a stand," he said.
Listen to Varriale describe his efforts below:
As he and other Christians began thinking of the best way to make a statement, they soon arrived at their plan to raise the Christian flag above the American banner — an act that he said means no disrespect to the U.S..
"We thought, 'You know, we could fly the Christian flag above the American flag, not showing any disrespect whatsoever, because the Christian flag has no organizational affiliation,'" he said, differentiating it from Islamic and denominational flags as a mere symbol of the faith overall, and not representative of a particular organization.
Varriale said that the reaction to placing the Christian flag above the American flag has been positive, though he discussed some of the negative feedback that's also been doled out.
"What we're seeing it's about a three to one ratio," he said. "For every three comments coming in in support, we've got one detractor."
He's hoping to spark a larger conversation about religious rights and submission to authority, while encouraging Christians to stand up for their faith in the wake of changing cultural tides.
"We love our country, we understand the concept of the separation of church and state, we've thought this thing through," he said.
Varriale said that — though he opposes gay marriage — that he respected San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for his 2004 decision to skirt California state law and issue marriage licenses.
"[Newsom] said, 'You know what? It doesn't matter what the law says. We believe this is right ... we're putting our all on the line,'" Varriale said. "I respect them for their courage."
Before you read or watch anything else about #GodBeforeGovernment, WATCH THIS! If you have any follow-up comments or questions, post them below and we'll address them in future videos.In this video we address a few issues that have come up since the start of the #GodBeforeGovernment movement. 1. Is flying the flag unpatriotic? (2:00)2. Are we trying to establish a Theocracy? (4:30)3. What does this have to do with the LGBT agenda? (7:20)4. What is God Before Government really about? (9:55)Posted by Rit Varriale - God Before Government on Thursday, July 9, 2015
The pastor said that it is time for Christians to "wake up and have the same kind of courage."
Varriale recently launched a website titled "God Before Government" in an effort to encourage other churches to stand up for their faith.
Read more about God Before Government here.