Shelby church to fly Christian flag over American flag

Church flies Christian flag over the American flag
Published: Jul. 4, 2015 at 2:09 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2015 at 2:35 AM EDT
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SHELBY, NC (WBTV) - In Cleveland County, Old Glory flies high. From shops, to homes, to houses of worship - the red, white and blue can be spotted on every street corner.

But this Fourth of July weekend, one Shelby flag pole will be reassessing its priorities. On Sunday, Pastor Rit Varriale will raise the Christian flag above the American flag in front of Elizabeth Baptist Church.

"Our typical flag etiquette is to have the American flag above the Christian flag. But when you stop and think about it, it should be our commitment to God first, then our commitment to country," Varriale said.

The controversial move is one that Varriale noticed his fellow pastor, Walter Wilson, doing down the road a few months ago at Focus Missionary Baptist Church.

"As I was changing the rope one day, the Lord just laid on me that he is first and when he told me that, I switched the flags around," Wilson said.

Now, the two pastors are hoping to spark a movement across the country in light of the United States Supreme Courts recent ruling on same-sex marriage.

Varriale tells WBTV he believes Christians need to stand up just as the LGBT community has been doing recently.

"The reality is, they have been willing to sacrifice more and be more bold for their cause than the church of Jesus Christ for serving God, and that's got to change," Varriale said.

The decision is getting push-back online from some saying the move is disrespectful and unpatriotic. But this former Army Ranger says the move isn't about not loving his country.

"I really don't need a lecture on patriotism, I'm willing to give my life for my country. When you think of military motto's, for example, God and country, God first and then country," Varriale said.

The two pastors know the move is sure to turn heads, but say they're okay with that.

"We know that not everyone is going to agree with that. But that's not going to make us sit down and stop talking about what's important," Wilson said.

Wilson's church will come together with Varriale's church on Sunday morning for the flag raising. Service begins at 11 a.m.

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