Would Jesus Say the Pledge of Allegiance?

I’ll go ahead and say it – I’m biased.  So are you.  I wish I could just set aside my bias and look at things from a purely absolute kind of way – that’s just not possible.  So . . . admitting my bias up front, I make this statement: I just cannot picture in my mind Jesus Christ himself – the Son of God and our Savior – standing up with crowds in the community, placing his hand over his heart, looking upward toward the stars and stripes and reciting the following words (remember, the Son of God . . . saying these words? . . . )

“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.”

I’ve had this conversation with countless people.  Hardly any agree with my position, and few understand where I’m coming from.  I just don’t think Jesus would have been able to get past the first two major clauses.  Can you see a red letter edition of the Bible with the words, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands”?  Jesus’ allegiance was clearly not to Rome . . . or even to Israel.  He didn’t come as a zealot to fight the government by force, but he just as clearly did not come acquiescing his politick through syncretistic approaches.

I suppose the argument comes that perhaps America is a “less bad” nation than Rome so we have an exemption.  That if Jesus were American born and had been part of a government “by the people, for the people” that that would have changed everything.  And that is something we just can’t know for sure.  I have my bias there, and you have yours.  My chief aim of concern is whether or not Jesus wants us offering our allegiance to anyone, anywhere.  To an extent this can call into question our allegiances to sports teams, universities, regions of the country, products we buy, etc.

Pretty much everyone I have had this conversation with believes they can offer their pledge to the government but it’s just not as central/important/meaningful as their pledge to God.  I see where they are coming from . . . I just can’t get there myself.  As I’ve often stated, there is much to be thankful for in this country, and certainly God has blessed it.  Maybe he’s blessed it because there were some God-fearing members among the Founders.  He’s also blessed it in spite of a great deal of misgivings and atrocities.

It’s certainly un-American, but not un-Christian to remind people today that this nation was founded on the pursuit of freedom and liberty and all of those oft-quoted important qualities – but it was also built on the annihilation of entire nations of American Indians and on the backs of enslaved blacks.  And how tired people grow of hearing this reality . . . but how can a Christian ever ignore it and act as if it was just collateral damage in some great Christian plan?  How can the Christian believe that the God of all people inspired this wonderful nation’s creation to come at the obliteration of entire cultures of people?  How are we to interpret this history as Christians?  Is this simply collateral damage?  Is this simply the “cost of freedom”?

I don’t have a sufficient answer here.  You can quickly turn to the Old Testament and illustrate to me how God often poured out his wrath on his people through the military conquest from foreign nations.  You can show me the atrocities that were done at God’s request.  I don’t understand those texts.  I suppose here I am left to vacillate.  I can appreciate the other perspective here.  However, the God that Christ showed me in the New Testament highlights that my role is not in condoning or participating in such fallen powers.  I will let God do what God is going to do, and stay faithful to my calling as a citizen of the kingdom.  At this point I am left with two options – either the God of the Old Testament was not the God of the New Testament (the Marcionite heresy), or Jesus was furthering the revelation of the Old Testament – again, don’t understand it, but I certainly can’t picture Jesus obliterating men, women, and children in the conquest of Canaan.

Last night as I flipped through the television channels in a few moments of “down time” I came across the fiery and well known preacher John Hagee.  He was in the midst of retelling the story of George Washington from Valley Forge noting how incredibly evident it was that God was with him.  He interchanged biblical texts and early American documents with such ease it was difficult to know which was which.  He received a roaring applause of approval at his calls that “It took sacrifice and commitment to fight off tyranny then, and it will take the same to fight off the tyranny in Washington today!”  The co-opting of the kingdom of God could scarcely be plainer.

As Christians, it is our belief that God is in control of history.  Our belief in Scripture assures us that God will redeem and renew this world – with or without our help.  It is time for Christians to make that their rallying cry during election time.  Let the apocalyptic message of Revelation pervade our politics instead of the constant call for “moral values” or “winning America back” or whatever other token phrase may arise.

It’s my least favorite time of the year – election time – where the idolatry of American Christians is as prevalent as ever.  We are called to be the colony of Christ-followers living out a subversive faith with no political allegiance – not morally-equipped powerbrokers ready to take back the government for God . . . my understanding of sovereignty says it’s already his . . .

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4 thoughts on “Would Jesus Say the Pledge of Allegiance?

  1. I certainly understand where you’re coming from (though I’m not there myself).

    It sometimes bothers me a bit to say the Pledge — I definitely think about the words and exactly what I’m saying. I see it more as a promise to be loyal to my country — obeying it’s laws, working to make it better, being a good citizen, and supporting it (as long as that support doesn’t conflict with my ultimate allegiance to the kingdom of God).

    Interesting fact: The last time I said the Pledge was last Sunday night. I said along with thousands of other people….. at a KISS concert! The band gives $1 from every ticket sold to the Wounded Warriors charity, and during the presentation, Paul Stanley led everyone in the Pledge.

    • Jeff, I can see where you’re coming from and would hope that all Christians can get at least that far – struggling and reflecting through the action. Too many of us are just like American clones that go through the actions because that’s what good Americans. And the KISS pledge is a pretty funny image.

      Robert’s questions from Facebook: “I generally agree with that whole article. I’d like to hear your thoughts on something I’ve been thinking about for a while. In thinking about this issue, I seem to find two general perspectives.

      One seems to encompass the sentiment that to… be American is to be Christian (and if you’re not Christian, you can’t be an American), that this is some kind of “promised land”, and that you can’t vote Democrat.

      On the other hand is the perspective that there can be no attachment, no interest, no allegiance to the land in which you live, period. That your only love, attachment, and allegiance is the the Kingdom of God, period, and that as a Christian you absolutely must not have any love or pride in your country. And you can’t vote at all.

      I know those are broad generalizations, but I really feel stuck between them, and I wonder how many other people do as well. Can a Christian be proud of his/her country (aspects of it anyway) without being disloyal/unfaithful to what Christ would do (have us do)?”

      I believe the first of your two options get at what many Jim Wallis types propose. That the political process is bigger than that of the Religious Right and some of that related baggage. I believe where I’m coming from is closer to the second option, though I would change some of your wording. You state in that option the Christian has “no attachment, no interest in the land in which you live.” This, for my perspective, overstates the Christian’s interest. There may, at some level, even be a degree of allegiance – kind of like a partiality to the part of the country I come from, or my hometown. I don’t see anything dualistic about that – maybe that is best described as an “attachment.” Furthermore, I have a great deal of interest in the country in which I live. After all, these are my friends, loved ones, and comrades. However, I see that in my endeavor to help them, a complete dependence on the working of the kingdom rather than the government. For instance, I can thoroughly and aggressively support my church’s social programs in hopes of bettering the land in which I live (taking interest in it). Our vision as Christians should be that much of the goods and services provided by the government for our neediest citizens would come from ministries of the church. That’s something that is often lost in Christian dialogue regarding government social programs. Most para-church organizations I’ve been a part of are extremely limited in funds and are overjoyed if govt. money comes through. Wouldn’t Jesus’ idea of the working of the kingdom be that the church’s funds would be over and abundant when it comes to these large social ills? In this manner, I think the Christian can applaud government programs that aid the poor and downtrodden (that’s certainly consistent with our mission), all the while focusing our time and energy on participating in the kingdom’s work.

  2. This is very well articulated, Adam. Thanks for this. I’ve never thought of reciting the pledge in the terms you’ve said here, and it resonates with me, for I always cringe when I (or my kids, who recite the pledge every morning at school) say it.
    The reason I cringe are what you state here. Great food for thought.

  3. I’m a Christian and I believe Jesus would not have supported Congress changing the original “Pledge of Allegiance” to include the words “under God.” Take into consideration the fact that Francis Bellamy did not want his art work changed. He created it and wanted it to remain unchanged. Also, his family did not want it changed in the 1950’s, decades after his death. I have absolutely no doubt that Jesus would have respected their wishes versus supporting the federal government’s decision to alter this work of art. Likewise, consider a hypothetical decision by the government to replace the torch with a cross on the Statue of Liberty or to alter the painting of the George Washington crossing the Delaware River to include a soldier clutching the Holy Bible. These examples sound ridiculous and they are, just as was the decision to alter the ORIGINAL Pledge of Allegiance by a bunch of politicians who were falling victim to fears of the spread of Communism. So, would Jesus have supported changing the aforementioned works of art, taking into consideration that their author’s/artist’s would not have wanted it? Absolutely not! Jesus NEVER forced His will on anyone. He asked us to seek salvation through Him by EXERCISING OUR OWN FREE WILL.

    Sadly…. today, many of Americans are clueless with respect to the facts behind the “Pledge of Allegiance” and call for boycotts when television stations or commercial products don’t include “under God”, even if they only print a small fraction of “The Pledge”.

    Also, school children across America are expected to stand, place their hands over their hearts, and recite this abomination. You cannot use the argument that a child has the right to NOT stand or the right to simply excuse himself/herself from the mindless indoctrination and exercise of blind faith. What young child is going to place themselves in a position to be ridiculed and hated by their peers?

    The issue with the “Pledge of Allegiance” can easily and RIGHTFULLY be solved by removing ANY AND ALL words which have been included by ANYONE other than Francis Bellamy. It is the right thing to do and follows along EXACTLY to the principles for which the United States was founded.

    Jesus would have wanted it that way…

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