Spirit

Christians and the Pledge – Part 6

As a child, every morning in school, I stood up with all my classmates and we put our hands over our hearts and in unison recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Only the hippy outcast types refused to say the pledge. I remember seeing one teacher’s blood boil every time time this one girl refused to say the pledge. So, what does it mean to say the United States’ Pledge of Allegiance?

This is the the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance: I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

In the Pledge you are pledge your allegiance to two things, the Flag (of the United States of America) and to the republic (of the United States of America).

But what does it mean to pledge your allegiance? According to the dictionary Allegiance is “the loyalty of a citizen to his or her government or of a subject to his or her sovereign.” This seems like a very awkward thing to do. There are several reasons why I believe one, especially a Christian, should not say the Pledge of Allegiance, or pledge their allegiance to a nation/group/people.

1. If you pledge your allegiance to the U.S. and the U.S. decides to kill all the Irish (just a random example). What position does that put you in? If you go against their wishes, are you going against your pledge?

Some may say that the pledge is to maintain a certain mindset and that if the U.S. goes against that mindset then you are free to take the necessary actions to correct the coarse. But isn’t that really in the eye of the beholder? Doesn’t that really make the pledge of allegiance useless? If anyone can define for themselves the circumstance to which they are pledging, then the pledge becomes meaningless.

2. As Christians we need to remember that we are not really members of this nation, we are part of the kingdom of Heaven. In fact, I have no problem with saying a pledge of allegiance, if it is pledging your allegiance to God and to His kingdom. Being a member of the Kingdom of Heaven means that we are only delegates of the nations we currently reside in.

3. What about other nations? If you pledge your allegiance to the U.S. only, than what does that say about your involvement and consideration for other nations and their people? If you pledge your allegiance to all nations, then what happens if one attacks your nation of residence?

Ultimately I think it is a bad idea to say the Pledge of Allegiance. At the very least because of its potential to put you in murky waters… and at the very most because I believe we should only pledge our allegiance to God.

Thoughts?

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14 Comments

  1. Lew,

    You’re such a weirdo! I thought I was the only one who worried about the implications of “The Pledge.” I am a school teacher and am somewhat expected to say the Pledge every day. I say it every day, but I keep in my mind EVERY time that my first allegiance is the Christ and His Kingdom.

    Good thoughts…

    Jason

  2. yep, you are not alone! About two years ago, I started coming to this same conclusion, and I no longer say the pledge of allegiance. Just can’t do it for all the reasons you mentioned here.

    I’m respectful of those who do still say it, though, and just stand there respectfully (hoping no one really notices and asks me about it!!)

  3. Jason

    I know I’m a bit of a freak… actually I’m probably kind of like one those hippy outcasts now :). The whole school thing and saying the pledge really gets me… at least on a philosophical level. I have never really been a patriotic person. I am amazed how many people are so dedicated to a nation they did not choose to be a part of.

    With that said, I’m not an anarchist or anything. I am no threat to the country. But Nero killed a lot of Christians who weren’t threats… yet they refused to worship him.

    Steve

    Yeah, I usually stand and let the others say what they want to say. Obama did that at some meeting and now everything thinks he’s a Muslim terrorist.

    Thanks for the comments.

    God’s Glory,
    Lew

  4. I agree. I stopped saying the pledge a while back, for all the reasons you just talked about. It make Vacation Bible School a little awkward, but other than that, no big problems.

  5. I’m not alone? Whew! What a relief. I still feel a bit awkward, though, because I’m not ready to explain myself to people yet.

  6. While we are primarily citizens of the kingdom of God, there seems to be nothing in scripture that keeps us from identifying ourselves secondarily as members of a family, clan, city, guild, profession, or state. Given that, it seems that there is nothing inherently wrong with pledging some sort of allegiance to a state.

    In fact pledges, or vows, used to underpin the whole political system. The king gave a knight land and the knight vowed to defend the king. This system though it seems antiquated to us was probably the greatest respecter of man’s freedom; as creature in the image of God he was allowed to freely choose whom he served. Our government was founded on a social contract principle. We as free citizens give up some of our rights to create a government that will collectively protect those rights. The pledge of allegiance is an echo of that. The government protects our right to property, defends us from criminals, and provides judges to hear our dispute. In response we pledge allegiance, i.e. promise not to undermine or overthrow it.

    To me this doesn’t seem to be a very big deal. Do I ever disagree with my government? All the time! Is my allegiance to the government absolute? Not even close! However, I believe we are to give a good amount of deference to our government before revolting (breaking allegiance) and so I pledge my allegiance to it.

    And besides isn’t making a point to not participate in the pledge of alliance the type of political act that brings division and could in fact turn out to be the type of stumbling block we seek to avoid?

    The pledge is something most citizens do. By not doing it are we making an unnecessary distinction? The one instance we have of the Apostles breaking the law is preaching the gospel when ordered not to. At various times they claimed loyalty (i.e. pledged their allegiance to the state) but said they served a higher master. Instead of denying loyalty to the state (which refusing to say the pledge in a sense does) we would be imitating the Lord and the apostles by recognizing the authority of the government over us and our loyalty to it but making it clear that there are limits to the government’s authority and we will not break God’s law to follow man’s ‘law.’

    This is similar to the posture that Daniel and his three friends (I’m not going to even try to spell their names) took in Babylon. They were all loyal to the king and served him with all their might, but refused to worship him as a God. That is a clear line in the sand. Not saying the pledge draws a blurry line (are we not loyal, are we adding command’s to God’s law)?

    I think of the example of Thomas More (the source of my profile picture). He gave his loyalty to the tyrant Henry VIII, but refused to acknowledge that Henry could supersede God’s laws and authority (a choice for which he paid for with his life). I think we would be far better off doing that than making an artificial division of ourselves as Christians with the rest of society over an issue that is not clearly prohibited by scripture.

  7. “As Christians we need to remember that we are not really members of this nation, we are part of the kingdom of Heaven.”

    I’ve never really understood sentiments like the above. Are they–being a member of the kingdom of Heaven and being a citizen–supposed to be mutually exclusive? Did Paul fret over using his citizenship to his advantage as he was also a member of the kingdom of Heaven?

    I have no problem pledging my allegiance to both God and country.

  8. Did Paul fret over using his citizenship to his advantage…?

    Ahhh, the key phrase there is “to his advantage”.

    Let’s ask a different question, though. Did Paul, since he was a Roman citizen, support Rome in its overthrow of Jerusalem? That would be more to the point, don’t you think?

    We’re not talking about what’s to our advantage. The question is whether or not we can pledge allegiance (which would be mighty frivolous if we just withdrew that allegiance whenever it didn’t suit us) to a country that does not uphold the values of the kingdom to which we should pledge our allegiance.

  9. Steve, pledging allegiance to a country does not entail agreeing with every decision and action that country takes. One can be quite loyal (have allegiance) and still disagree. I can’t see at all what the point is in asking what Paul thought about the conquest of Jerusalem. I’m sure he didn’t like the fact that Nero used Christians as living candles and wanted people to worship him as a god. None of that (even though this nation had many values contrary to true kingdom values)took away from the fact that Paul indentified himself as a Roman citizen (secondary of course to being a citizen of God’s kingdom).

    God instituted government at the time of Noah. Without it we would have anarchy. Refusing to pledge allegiance/loyalty to our government comes close to denying the legitimacy of a God ordained institution. (Though the Bible makes it clear that our loyalty is not to be absolute).

  10. Nomodiphas,

    You said: “God instituted govt…” Agreed. Then you said: “Refusing to pledge allegiance/loyalty to our government comes close to denying the legitimacy of a God ordained institution.” This is a huge leap in logic. It is possible to live as a citizen of a country without “pledging allegiance/loyalty” to that country’s govt. It is possible to be grateful to God for the benefits of living within a certain govt without pledging allegiance to that govt. In fact, it is possible recognize the good carried out by the govt and even to work with the govt at times without pledging allegiance to that govt. It is even possible to refuse to pledge allegiance without being a traitor.

    I think, perhaps, Lew is suggesting this middle ground instead of either extreme that you suggest. It is possible to pledge allegiance to God alone and yet remain a responsible citizen.

    -Alan

  11. Alan,

    I agree with what you’re saying, I think I’m working with a different definition or notion of what pledging allegiance entails. I see it as sort of the minimum duty of a citizen to pledge some sort of minimul loyalty (a promise more or less not to betray one’s country). I would guess when I frame it like this the duty to pledge allegiance becomes far less controversial.

  12. Lew,

    Great to see you younger men and women thinking and wrestling with these issues.

    As an outsider/Christian, I would apparently understand your pledge in a different way to you.

    The words “one nation UNDER GOD”, seem to me, to be a rider which was included, by those who formulated the pledge, to allow freedom of individual conscience on matters with which sincere disagreement is possible. That is my understanding of our pledge.

    The Australian national pledge reads:

    “From this time forward, under God,
    I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose Democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.

    New Citizens can choose to take the pledge in the form of an oath,which includes the words ‘under God’, or in the form of an affirmation,which does not.

    I would word it differently, but would have no trouble repeating the pledge whilst the term “under God” is acceptable.

    I don’t place allegiance to my country above allegiance to my Sovereign Lord God!

  13. Lew is having technical difficulties. For some reason, he cannot post comments to blogger blogs – including his own. He wanted me to let you know why he has not replied to our comments.

    -Alan

  14. Drew

    Do you still pledge your allegiance to the Christian flag though? :)

    Mary

    I don’t think anyone has ever asked me why I don’t… in fact, I don’t think they notice. It’s like people who think it’s wrong to pray with their eyes open. They’ll only ever know if someone does it if they open their eyes :).

    Nomodiphas & Tim

    Alan and Steve have already said what I probably would have said. Althought they probably did it a little better than I could have. However, let me say a few things.

    Nomodiphas

    I do not pledge my allegiance to the U.S., but I would have absolutely no problem telling the U.S. that I promise not to overthrow the government. But I also promise not to overthrow any other governments.

    On a philosophical level, I don’t quite understand a pledge that is only partly a pledge. Also, who decides what the minimum requirements are? Is it completely objective or subjective? If you pledge a “minimum loyalty” and the government says that you need to renounce Christ as part of the minimum loyalty, then what good was your pledge?

    Tim

    What happens when you pledge to a country and it goes against God? Pledging your allegiance to a country only on the basis that only agree to the those things that are not against God is really just a pledge to God – it has little to do with a country.

    Steve and Alan

    I think I pretty much agreed with what y’all said.

    Aussie John

    I understand your point. “Under God” is actually a fairly recent addition to the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. I wonder what the average U.S. citizen would say if they were asked what “under God” means to them in the pledge.

    All

    By the way, how can you pledge your allegiance to a piece of cloth?

    God’s Glory,
    Lew

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