I Pledge Allegiance…

12 08 2010

“A number of years ago I attended a basketball game at a Christian school. Just before the game everyone was asked to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance. So I stood, placed my hand over my heart, and began to recite our national creed. Halfway through, however, I began to wonder what I was doing. I’m called to live as a foreigner in a strange land. I’m called to be a citizen of a Kingdom that is not of this world. I’m called to live as a soldier stationed in enemy occupied territory whose job is to carry out of the will of my enlisting officer. Yet here I was pledging allegiance not to Christ, but to the flag of this foreign land in which I happened to be stationed.

Early Christians were willing to be martyred rather than express allegiance to the Roman Empire, but here I was expressing allegiance to the American empire. This didn’t seem right. I stopped and haven’t said the Pledge since. I love America, but I cannot serve two masters. My allegiance must be pledged to Christ alone.

I acknowledge that people have differing opinions about this matter. Some have told me they recite the Pledge to express support for the good things America stands for, not to express their ultimate allegiance to it. Others have told me they do it out of respect for those who have sacrificed their lives to defend our rights and freedoms, but again, not to pledge their ultimate allegiance. Others have told me they do it simply because they feel like a communist if they don’t. Fine. My concern isn’t with this particular American ritual.

What concerns me is that it doesn’t even occur to many American Christians that there might be a conflict between their allegiance to Christ and their Pledge of Allegiance to America. Their faith has become so nationalized that they assume these dual allegiances are compatible. This is an idolatrous assumption, and it helps explain what the lives of most American Christians are indistinguishable from the lives of their pagan American neighbors. We’re failing to revolt against the pagan values of our nation because the nation, with its pagan values, has our allegiance – to the point that many followers of Jesus don’t even recognize the pagan values as pagan. They rather think the nation, with its values, is basically “Christian”!

We’ve been seduced by the Powers. It’s time for Kingdom people in America to be done with this. Our ultimate allegiance cannot be to America or any other country. It cannot be to a flag, democracy, the right to defend ourselves, the right to do what we want, the right to vote, or the right to pursue happiness however we see fit. We are Kingdom people only to the extent that God along is King of our lives, and thus only to the extent that we revolt against the temptation to make any cultural values or ideas supreme.”

– Greg Boyd (‘The Myth of a Christian Religion‘; and also the author of, ‘The Myth of a Christian Nation‘, and ‘Letters from a Skeptic‘)

“Perhaps there is a way to be creative in all of this, to make sure folks see a unique witness — of creating a new song or pledge that says, “We love the people of the U.S.A., but our love does not stop at any border… our Bible does not say God so loves America, but God so loves the world.” Even having flags from Iraq or Afghanistan next to the U.S. flag raises these healthy tensions . . . For too long, we Christians have been known more by what we are against than by what we are for. . . Our world is so saturated with the fusion of nationalism and faith. The flag is on many church altars. And our money says “in God we trust”, while our economy reeks of the seven deadly sins. With this fusion of God and country, places like Goshen are bastions of distinction — where we are reminded that our bible does not say “for God so loved America” but “for God so loved the world.” The absence of the U.S. flag and anthem at Goshen should always remind us that we have an allegiance that runs deeper than nation or country . . . I just had a chance to read over the words of Francis Scott Key’s 1814 poem that has become the national anthem – but there are lines that make my heart ache in their triumphalism and glorification of defeat. The rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air seem to stand in stark contrast to the love of the cross where we see a God that loves his enemies so much he died for them.

“O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation; Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free und the home of the brave!”

We must ask, could this national anthem riddled not be an obstacle to Christ rather than an invitation towards Christ? The god of the national anthem may be the god that we called upon when we took this land from natives and developed it with kidnapped Africans, but it is not the God I know or that I see in Jesus.

It strikes me as such a contrast to the beautiful words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount commending us to love our enemies, the beatitudes blessing the peacemakers and the meek and the merciful, the prayer of our Lord teaching us to forgive as we want to be forgiven, and the fruits of the Spirit that include things like gentleness, kindness, and goodness.”

Shane Claiborne (author of, ‘Jesus for President’, and ‘The Irresistible Revolution’)

An older post of mine: ‘Christians & the 4th of July’




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