LOVELL: The Pine Tree flag

The pine tree was an important symbol of resistance to the tyranny of England due to its strength, size and resistance to rot

The Pine Tree flag. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP Photo)

Today’s civil unrest is causing real pain no matter which side of the fence one sits. The desire to express frustration with our current political climate can be seen on college campuses, city streets and community gatherings.

The use of flags to convey a political message is as old as the Crusades and as current as with a U.S. Supreme Court justice. It is causing quite a ripple in our national discourse.


One of the oldest and most revered flags is the Pine Tree flag. Sometimes called the “Appeal to Heaven” flag, it was commissioned under George Washington in 1775 and sailed on six schooners and two armed American scows in the Revolutionary War.

The Pine Tree Flag was adopted by the pilgrims in the Age of Enlightenment between 1760 and 1776. During this period in our history, college campuses began to replace theology with science and math. Equality and economic liberty were emphasized, religious tolerance and republicanism were embedded into curriculum. These concepts are articulated in the Declaration of Independence we honor today.

The phrase “Appeal to Heaven” is a reference to the popular philosopher John Locke in his Second Treatise on Government. His writing rejected the notion of a divine right of kings and rule of the aristocracy. This recognition gave power to the people and was adopted as an inalienable right in the Declaration of Independence, Aug. 2, 1776. Locke stated that “where there is no appeal on earth for judgement, one may appeal to heaven.”

In 1968, the U.S. Postal Service commemorated the Pine Tree flag with a six-cent stamp that included the Locke quote, issued before the systematic elimination of faith in government documents and deeds.

The pine tree was an important symbol of resistance to the tyranny of England due to its strength, size and resistance to rot. The strength and size of our massive pines contributed to successful shipbuilding in the U.S. and abroad. Tar and turpentine from pine trees became major products produced by North Carolina in the early days of the colonies. The trunks of pine trees afforded the right amount of tension and flexibility to be desired by the British for use as masts on their sailing vessels. The desire of the British to use our pines became contentious and helped spark the Revolutionary War.

Considering the majestic pine trees’ resistance to rot, we must acknowledge that today, the pine beetle is threatening our forests. This tiny, imperceptible pest is the most destructive insect in North Carolina and many other parts of our country. They effectively bore through the protective outer layer of bark and feed on the inner tissue. This insidious pest can devastate a forest in very little time and usually well before its presence has been detected.

The occasion of this devastation comes in unpredictable waves and can cause massive destruction if the plague is neglected. The pine beetle prefers weakened, mature trees. The larva produces a pheromone attracting other beetles to the vulnerable forest. The volatile organic compounds released by the beetle and the destruction of the environment cause haze and air pollution, compromising natural resources.

Currently, the Pine Tree flag has been appropriated by some as a symbol of Christian nationalists, implying the “fringe viewpoint” of faithful patriots is a threat to our republic. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson was discredited as being groomed by the Christian right. Robert Jones, president of The Public Religion Research Institute, described him as “the embodiment of white Christian nationalism in a tailored suit.”

In fact, nearly half of Americans believe that the Bible should have some influence on our U.S. laws. Marginalizing the faithful is an insidious tool used to bore through our protective national shield to weaken our country from within. The slow, constant chipping away of our faith creates a vacuum allowing fear and suspicion to take root. Civil discourse is foreclosed by the protest industry.

Speaker Johnson is said to have a Pine Tree flag posted at his office door. That is a fine expression of faith in our country and the inalienable rights articulated by our founding fathers.

Let it stand to guard our county against an infestation of crippling ideologies set forth to attack our maturing nation. Let it speak for our resistance to rot, our strength, resilience and our pride in American idealism.

Connie Lovell lives in Pinehurst.