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 . . .