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A Disembodied Head? Part 4: Allegiance

Students pledging to the flag, 1899, 8th Division, Washington, D.C.

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.

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. (Matthew 6.24a)

Now I’m treading on more controversial territory. While I’m aware that the verse I quote here is talking about money, in its original context, I think the principal that Christ is referring to has a wider implication that we can’t serve God and anything else. One of the things that became clear to me as I read the words of Christ over again with fresh eyes was that there were areas in which the words of Christ would call me into beliefs and actions that might be counter to what my nation might ask of me. (More on these areas in the future.) How was I to balance these conflicts. I could come to only one conclusion, the call of Christ must trump all. Certainly, I think that most Christians, even ardent politically involved ones, would acknowledge that Christ must be preeminent. This became increasingly unsettling when I was in situations where the Pledge of Allegiance was being said. How could I pledge allegiance to my country, while in my heart knowing that there was another, far greater allegiance that would trump my commitment to my country in any and all situations?

Please, don’t get me wrong. As nations of this earth go, America is the one in which I would choose to live every time. The freedom to even consider this type of position openly is a blessing that I do not take for granted. Also, my grandfather served in the armed forces during WWII, and I value his service, and that of so many others down through the years. I am not calling America evil, or accusing anyone in the government of anti-God policies. This theology grew in me during both Republican and Democratic administrations, and has nothing to do with demonizing a particular party.

For me, this was about an issue of supremacy. If Christ and His Kingdom were supreme in my life, and that Kingdom was the place of my primary citizenship, I feel that I cannot pledge my allegiance to any other authority. Yes, I am subject to my governing authorities, and endeavor to abide by their rules in every way that I can. I pay my taxes, abide by local laws, respect the police and obey traffic laws (probably should slow down a little when driving, though). I am not advocating for anarchy, or anything of the sort. I’m simply saying that if we, as Christians, claim Christ as our authority, I cannot understand how we can cede any of that to our country, which we must admit is not infallible. For many years my adopted children would have been viewed as less than human under the law because of their mixed race heritage. For many years my wife would not have been allowed to vote. There are certainly things in this country today that are inconsistent with Christ’s teaching, and even debate about whether the wars we are currently fighting meet the threshold of “just-war” theory.

Jesus clearly indicates in His last prayer for His disciples in John 17 that we are not of this world any longer:

16 They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. 17 Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. 19 And I set myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart. (John 17.16-19)

John reiterates this in his first letter:

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, 16 because all that is in the world (the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance produced by material possessions) is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away with all its desires, but the person who does the will of God remains forever. (1 John 2.15-17)
Jesus also points out that His Kingdom is not an earthly Kingdom:
36 Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” (John 18.36)
If His Kingdom is not of this world, we should be careful not to assume that the earthly “kingdom” (or nation) in which we find ourselves, no matter how wonderful and seemingly godly, is in some way a manifestation of the true Kingdom. In fact, Peter points out that we are part of a new holy nation, and should act as foreigners and exiles here on earth:
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people. You were shown no mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to keep away from fleshly desires that do battle against the soul, 12 and maintain good conduct among the non-Christians, so that though they now malign you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God when he appears. (1 Peter 2.9-12)
In the end, I’ve decided that as part of another nation, I consider myself as having dual citizenship, but the primary citizenship is in God’s Kingdom. Where there is no conflict, I am happy to meet the expectations and requirements of my earthly nation. But where there is any hint of conflict, I must side with the Kingdom of God. Thus, I cannot pledge allegiance to the United States. All nations are under God’s ultimate authority, whether they recognize it or not. However, no nation is a Kingdom of God come to earth.
Please note, I am not saying that if you say the pledge, you are a heathen, or less godly than I am. I am explaining my theology, and challenging you to consider what I’ve found in scripture. If you have helpful passages that you think show my interpretation of Scripture to be incorrect, feel free to comment briefly below and point me in the right direction to find your reference and understand your interpretation. If you can say the pledge but don’t believe it means what I’ve taken it to mean, feel free to disagree, and let me know how you interpret it in the comments below. I believe that this is an issue on which serious Christ followers might disagree. As for me and my house, however, we will study the pledge and talk about what it means, but stress that our full allegiance can only properly be placed in Christ and His Kingdom.
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9 comments on “A Disembodied Head? Part 4: Allegiance

  1. […] 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. 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. (Matthew 6.24a) Now I’m treading on more controversial territory. While I’m aware that the verse I quote here is talking about money, in its original context, I think the principal that Christ is referring to has a wider implication that we can’t serve God and anything else.[…] […]

  2. Thanks for a great post Sam (I just discovered your blog). What do you tell your kids about the pledge? I assume they say it at school? Mine say it and then sing God bless America (less offensive IMO) every morning at school. I don’t like it, but I’d rather not make a scene by encouraging my kids not to do it- they’re a bit too young anyway to understand any objections I might have. How, if at all, do you talk about this with your kids?

    • Well, for reasons unrelated to this post, we homeschool. We do make sure to talk about it as part of their learning US history, which is important for them to understand. We talk about the supremacy of Christ, and that God is the only being/thing worthy of our allegiance, and we are first a part of His Kingdom. I’m not sure how I would suggest they handle this in school, since that isn’t something we’ve personally had to deal with. My oldest three are in school, (K, 2nd, 3rd) but are still a little young to get the full impact of it, to some extent. Still, I do feel that they benefit from being exposed to the basics of your theology so that they don’t get “surprised” later. I would probably just remind them that while we may say it at school, we remember that God is really our primary allegiance. I’m reminded of the story of Namaan, and his request to be excused when he bows before the false God when he visits the temple with his earthly king. He is granted that request by Elisha (2 Kings 5.17-19). I tend to err on the side away from legalism about these things.

  3. […] Friday’s post about the Pledge of Allegiance, I thought I’d follow up with the logical conclusions that led […]

  4. […] Friday’s post about the Pledge of Allegiance, I thought I’d follow up with the logical conclusions that led […]

  5. […] post is a follow up to the last two posts (Friday: Allegiance, Monday: America). Let me start with a quote from my conclusion yesterday to set the starting point […]

  6. […] post is a follow up to the last two posts (Friday: Allegiance, Monday: America). Let me start with a quote from my conclusion yesterday to set the starting point […]

  7. […] is a clear lack of instructions for how to exercise power if you are in the government/political […]

  8. […] For more on our adoption and my thoughts about adoption, check out posts tagged foster/adoption or  categorized as adoption. For my previous discussions of allegiance, you can check out this post. […]

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