Pledge Allegiance?

I read another post on a blog site earlier this week that had to do with displaying the American flag in our churches, and it really got me to thinking about where we find our identity and where we place our allegiance. Granted this is a long rant, and will probably rub some people the wrong way. But for me it is a matter of conviction, and a question of where we place our values and find our identities.

I am no great theologian, but I have thought for several years now that it is simply wrong to “pledge” my allegiance to any but God. Our government–like any government–is made up of people, and as a result, it is imperfect and fallible. It is not my God, should not be worshiped or put above God, although I deeply appreciate those who serve our nation under the guidance of our Lord, just as I am thankful for the people who give of themselves in service to the Church. I am also thankful to live in a country like the United States where we may freely worship. It is unfortunate, though, that here in America, a country where we have some of the greatest freedom in the world to worship God openly and without fear, we are so spiritually tepid and lethargic that most of us do not even do that well. There are many other places in the world today where people who love and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ do so under the threat of death, yet they worship fervently and appreciatively for what He has done. Here, we suffer little more than mild discomfort or criticism, yet most self-professing Christians shy away from publicly proclaiming Christ for fear of a little bit of ridicule. Yet, we will all put our hands over our heart and pledge our allegiance to a FLAG, and do so proudly whenever there is an opportunity so that we may show off our patriotic spirit. Why is this?

I would venture to say that your average homeless person appreciates a half-eaten hamburger from McDonalds, rescued from a garbage can, more than a millionaire who eats a $100 meal at his favorite five star restaurant. When conditions are hard and food is scarce, how much more are even meager scraps of food appreciated? We have every opportunity to serve and worship God here, yet most of us–perhaps because of the luxury we enjoy, fail to make the most of the opportunities God has afforded us. We squander them. Instead of loving God with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our mind (and loving our neighbors as ourselves), we fill our lives with trivial things that distract us from our sole purpose in life, which is to glorify God. We have TVs, cell phones, computers, cameras, DVD players (many of us in our cars even), game systems, and countless other gadgets that all work to isolate us from others and even more so from God. And while verbally, we may pledge our allegiance to a flag, what we really pledge our allegiance to is a lifestyle… a lifestyle of flesh consumption and soul corruption, and then we announce to the world how proud we are to be so “blessed”. But blessed are the meek, Jesus said. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn, and blessed are those who thirst and hunger for righteousness. James borrows from the Old Testament and tells us, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

To “pledge your allegiance” to a flag seems to me to directly violate the first two commandments so blatantly that I am almost amazed so few Christians take to task this daily ritual in our schools when it seems to stand in direct contradiction to the commandments of God’s word. It is interesting that an atheist will take his case all the way to the Supreme Court because the words “under God” happen to be in the rote script our kids rehearse daily, yet few Christians take offense that our children are basically taught to place the flag and their country OVER God (despite what the words might say). There is no question that the motive behind this “pledge” is a sense of “patriotism” (i.e. to honor and fellowship with the United States government) and not religion (to honor and fellowship with God). In fact, the “under God” portion of the pledge was not actually added until much later on after it was originally written.

And not only does this practice of reciting the pledge daily seem to violate the first two commandments that have everything to do with revering and honoring God, they also stand in direct contrast to Peter’s message to the early church and the first Christians. This is what the rock whom Christ used to found His early church had to say:

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS,
AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS.
THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF,
BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.”

And this is the word which was preached to you.

(1 Peter 1:13-25)

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
(1 Peter 2:9-11)

God does not care where you live or where you have your citizenship. If He did, He would not have chosen Nazareth over Jerusalem when He came incarnate. The Lord is sovereign, and will put you wherever He wills, but your identity in Christ is not to be found in the world or the kingdoms of men, but in the Kingdom of God.

Now, I believe that pride is the first shade of selfishness, and selfishness is the root of all sin. In the verse “The love of money is the root of all evil”, it is selfishness that is at the root. All of the Ten Commandments were given to combat the innate selfishness that resides within us as a result of the Fall. The first four pertain to selfishness in our relationship with God; the last six pertain to different aspect of selfishness in our relationships with others. “Selfishness”, simply put, is elevating and esteeming our own self-nature above God, which was the path of descent for Lucifer mentioned by the prophet Isaiah. It seems to me that we, here in America, live in a culture that values and encourages this type of pride and selfishness above all else. A quick read through Galatians 5:19-21, where Paul discusses the deeds of the flesh, should serve as a painful reckoning as to the “state of the nation” and the real values held by our culture. Indeed, the things Paul underscores as the “deeds of the flesh” are actually marketed (in a more subversive manner) in all of the media and literature most of us are exposed to daily:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

“Proud to be an American”

How many evangelical Christians have sung along with this popular song… and sung along proudly. But Paul rightly said, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Most of us who have sung that song so loudly and proudly have probably never stopped to wonder, “Why are we proud to be an American?” Am I better than someone who was born in Cuba, Nigeria, Portugal, or Peru? Should I feel a great sense of pride that I was born and live in one of the wealthiest and most self-glorifying and self-oriented nations in the world? Should I be proud that I am one of small percentage of the world’s population that can enjoy all of the “modern conveniences” the rest of the world’s population has to do without? Or that I can work “hard” in an air-conditioned building for eight to ten hours a day, drive my comfortable air-conditioned car home everyday, eat whatever I want with my wife and kids in our comfortable air-conditioned home, and never have to look at or concern myself with the sick or the poor? Should I be proud that I even have the time and resources to work on a website in my “spare time”, as if my vain thoughts are so important I should place them here where anyone can read them? Oh, foolish pride… dare I pledge my allegiance to thee? Or like Paul, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

I am curious as to what comments you might have, so please feel free to leave them.

Peace & Blessings.

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4 Comments

Filed under Church, Culture, Gospel, Politics

4 responses to “Pledge Allegiance?

  1. PCN

    I can totally see where you are coming from. I, too, attest to certain religious beliefs, and wonder about the “pride” of which you speak. But, I do believe one ought to take pride in their country as much as one take pride in their appearance, their health, their bodies, their familes, etc.

    (The extent to which one attests to this belief is their own choice–based on their spiritual/religious values which I do not condemn. I just get to sit here, like you, in my spare time and ponder it– along with many others.)

    However my reasoning for a certain amount of pride, is that in having it, we are able to sustain the ability to have these religious freedoms of which you speak. And while, yes, there are those schmos out there who really don’t know what being grateful for a meal is all about, the greater majority of us do.

    There is a certain amount of pride in the country that affords us better communities for schools, welfare programs, and making sure that the guy living next door to us isn’t starving because someone didn’t have enough pride in their country to make sure your neighbor’s job stayed inside the country, and wasn’t outsourced, allowing that tycoon more greed, and your neighbor less food.

    It seems as though when people have fewer worries, they spend more time in church, right? Enough fuel in the car to get to work and feed the family –or drive to church, miss a day of work, and put less food on the table?

    (Just yet, let’s not get into the concept of how God provides when you need it.)

    I don’t really know how to validate the pride of which I speak fully or clearly when it comes to religious/spiritual morals, but what I do know is that when you don’t hold a nation together with pride, then what you do have is a “me” nation out for itself (and that second home in Aspen…). So, I ask you, is all Pride bad? Or is it just the insidious and brazen folk who turn “pride” into a bad word? So, perhaps if we were to abandon the concept altogether, the result would be far worse.

  2. Kenny Kirk

    I agree we should pledge ourselves to God first ,and foremost. If we take more pride in anything other than the Cross of Christ. That is our Idol. This Includes ourselves, our family etc.

    I am not sure where you are PCN ,but to say that the majority of people are grateful for a meal is a strech I think at best.

    We have become so autonomous is this country that we don’t even speak to those around us, let alone care for them.

  3. P2

    PCN – The point that I am trying to make is that those of us who profess Christ ought to put Him first in our lives, above all else, as Kenny said. I do not what your faith or religion is, but as a committed Christian, I am called to find my identity in Christ–above ALL else. I am a servant of Christ, a husband in Christ, a father in Christ, an American in Christ.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not *ashamed* to be an American–nothing of the sort. However, I do not find that a sense of national pride is appealing, and part of the reason for that is because there are too many evidences of what a strong national sense of pride *unchecked* can lead to when it becomes the determining factor for one’s identity. One does not even have to go back to Nazi Germany (although it may be the most obvious example) to see what happens when a government “of the people and by the people” finds its identity and character in the proud vein of nationalism, rather than boasting in Christ.

    And the pride that I am attempting to penetrate here does not even have to be a governing body at the national level. It could be as rough and removed from government as the “Crips” and the “Bloods”, or the “Greasers” of the 60s. Or it could be a religious affiliation, such as the Freemasons or the Mormon church, both of who have an “advancement” process where people attain higher and higher rank. That is more similar to a governmental structure. It also includes governments of all sorts at the local and regional levels just as much as the national level. However, by its very nature ANY corporate entity will find that “pride” and advancement without some sort of measure of counterbalance, some off-setting cause for humility, lends itself to this particular bent.

    Again, let me clarify. I am not an anarchist, not a politician. I am a Christian, first and foremost, and so when it comes to government, both within the Church and within the world, I have the Word of God to guide me. There are at least three references in the New Testament that spring to mind that exhort me to exist in submission and civility wherever my sovereign Lord has chosen to place me.

    Rom 13:1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
    Rom 13:2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
    Rom 13:3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;
    Rom 13:4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
    Rom 13:5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.
    Rom 13:6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.
    Rom 13:7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
    Rom 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

    Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

    1Pe 2:13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,
    1Pe 2:14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.
    1Pe 2:15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.
    1Pe 2:16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.
    1Pe 2:17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

    I was born and remain a citizen of the United States of America. I enjoy the freedom that being a citizen here provides. I am thankful that my family has a roof over our heads, that we have clothes to wear and food to eat. Our basic needs are met. At the same time, if the Lord called me to serve in another country, I would go humbly in His service–not *proudly* as an American. And although I am not be ashamed to be American, I have found myself embarrassed at times by just how much I take for granted because we have so many luxuries that the majority of our brothers and sisters in the world do not. If a quick trip to WorldVision.org does not humble you as to your circumstances, I do not know what will.

    Again, to reiterate–the principal point of my post is that here in America we live in a society that has established and protected our right to worship and to serve our Lord without fear of prison or punishment. Amen to that. The problem that I have is that AMONG CHRISTIANS–I know far more *Christians* who will cover their heart and proudly say the Pledge of Allegiance to a FLAG and sing songs like “Proud to be an American” to demonstrate their patriotic spirit (that is, to be a man-pleaser among their fellow Americans), but who will never boldly proclaim the Savior to the unconverted. The reason for their boldness when it comes to patriotism and their meekness when it comes to the gospel is THE SAME. It is self-centered pride and a desire to be accepted and esteemed among men, to be seen positively. My point is NOT that it is somehow wrong or immoral to display a patriotic spirit or to sing the national anthem, etc. But to boldly proclaim America yet silently renounce Christ by a sin of omission, is a serious defect in a mature Christian’s character.

    Does that overstate what I’m attempting to get at here, or just muddy the waters further?

  4. The Wife

    Here’s what I don’t understand.. In our public school system (yes my children attend and no I don’t plan on homeschooling anytime soon), we pledge not only to the American flag, but also to the Texas flag, we have a “moment of silence”, but we cannot talk about God (who is mentioned in both pledges) and we can’t pray which is basically what a “moment of silence” is, right? We cannot (but I did anyway) show our faith such as displaying a cross or anything to do with our Lord. The teacher that I worked with didn’t see my cross sitting on my shelf until February and I got it in December. She said, “Oh…. I didn’t know you had a cross over here….” I simply looked at her and said, “Yep, I sure do and I’m not taking it down.” I don’t get it.. Our country is so messed up.

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