Back to Top

Turning Things Upside Down

Hundreds of protestors gathered at the steps of the Colorado State Capitol to protest Columbus Day and called to abolish the holiday. The protest was about the historical conquest of North America by Europeans, and to call attention to the losses suffered by the Native American peoples and their cultures.

I have seen one ardent Native American fly the United State flag upside down. Per the US Flag Etiquette Rules and Guidelines “the flag should never be displayed with the union (stars) down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property”. Flying the flag upside down is not be taken lightly by the bearer especially when historically, American Indians have the highest record of military service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups and are very proud patriotic veterans. On one hand, you have the patriots of this nation who, under no conditions, can allow any apparent disrespect to happen to the flag.

This history has been stained by heartbreak.

But you also have the Native American community who, in many cases, have been marginalized, wronged and oppressed by society under the American flag, and Manifest Destiny.  These symbols were used to justify the occupation and annexation of Native Americans.  This history has been stained by heartbreak and injustice and too often deprivation and suffering within Native American communities.  Furthermore these stories have been met with responses that distress the conscience.

Are Native Americans the only group of inhabitants, who need to display the Stars and Stripes upside down?  Many Americans know they are in dire distress. Perhaps flipping the revered US flag speaks out against the status quo and disrupts the established order and negative cultures? 

I know of someone who was overturning the status quo as a subversive troublemaker for the Kingdom - Jesus. It seems to me that Jesus was all about turning things upside down. He overturned social norms and challenged the authorities.  He was a dissident and a thorn in the side of the establishment.

This Kingdom was not just a place to chill out

His mission brought an upside-down Kingdom that would be good news for the poor, oppressed and distressed. This Kingdom was not just a place to chill out in heaven, like a retirement portfolio after we die, but something that would come on earth as well and inside our churches. 

Churches need change and to flip things upside down!  We need a reformation in our commitment to the poor, vulnerable, marginalized and oppressed.  American churches have tended to choose comfort over constructive conflict and in so doing created and maintained a status quo of injustice. Progress is possible, but we must learn to discern the difference between complicit Christianity and courageous and radical Christianity.

By contrast, radical Christianity embraces racial and ethnic diversity. An upside down church stands against any person, policy, or practice that would dim the glory of God reflected in the life of human beings from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

We must move out of our comfort zones

In this way we’ll reflect an upside down Jesus.  Who went out of his way to challenge cultural attitudes and hang out with outcasts and ate with “sinners” and the socially marginalized and one could even say he would ‘walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins.’  

As disciples and radical Christians we must move out of our comfort zones in order to become representatives of transformation in the mission of Christ’s Church.  That makes Christians strange and even peculiar. That makes Christians rebellious.   We are strangers and exiles and we too have something to live for as sojourners.

Photo by Mathilda Khoo on Unsplash

The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

In order to steward ministry shares well, commenting isn’t available on Do Justice itself because we engage with comments and dialogue in other spaces. To comment on this post, please visit the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue’s Facebook page (for Canada-specific articles) or the Office of Social Justice’s Facebook page. Alternatively, please email us. We want to hear from you!

Read more about our comment policy.