Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Pledge of Allegiance, 2 Reasons Why Christians Should Not Say It

The Pledge of Allegiance was originally composed in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. Originally the Pledge was composed of these words: 
"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." 
 Interestingly you don't find the controversial phrase "under God",or even "of the United States of America". Both of these phrases were later additions to the Pledge, leading to the final version that we all know today:

"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."

So, enough about history. I'd like to propose that there are two primary reasons (if not more), why Christians/followers of Christ should NOT say the pledge. Before we get into those reasons I'd like to start with defining some of the key words in the pledge so we are all on the same page as to its meaning.

Pledge: To offer or guarantee by a solemn binding promise, similar to an oath.

Allegiance: [1] the loyalty of a citizen to his or her government or of a subject to his or her sovereign. [2] loyalty or devotion to some person, group, cause, or the like.

Flag A usually rectangular piece of fabric of distinctive design that is used as a symbol.(In this case, a symbol for the Republic of the United States of America)

From these definitions we can understand a couple of things. Making a pledge is basically the same thing as an oath. And, giving your allegiance to something or someone is basically committing your loyalty to that entity. Also, the flag stands for something more than itself. It stands for the country/government it belongs to. In short, to pledge your allegiance to the flag means that you are making an oath of loyalty to the country, the United States of America. 

Now for the two reasons why I think Christians should NOT be making an oath of allegiance to the United States or any other earthly government. 

#1 Jesus directly and without any qualifiers condemns making an oath to anything for any reason. 

 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’  But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne;  or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.  And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.  All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." (Matthew 5:33-37)

The people in Jesus' day had a practice of making oaths for almost anything. The practice of making oaths was to guarantee before men and God that the person making the oath would fulfill his obligation or carry out a promise. It was looked on as a criminal offense to break your oath. Thus, the Jews had been commanded to "fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made". Jesus, however, changes things. Notice that he does not say, " Do not swear an oath and then break it." No, he says: "Do not swear an oath AT ALL"!!! He says that as people who follow God, less words, more often than not, is better than more. Simply say 'Yes' or 'No', and do not swear an oath AT ALL

#2 Jesus also teaches that men cannot serve two masters at the same time. 

When teaching about worldly treasures, Jesus says we should be more concerned with the things of heaven and God's kingdom than those of this world. 

"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Matthew 6:24)
We can't give our loyalty to two masters and be pleasing to both. Whether the choice is between God and money, God and man, God and a government or nation, the choice is always the same, one or the other. It seems that Jesus is saying 'you can't have your cake and eat it too'. In light of this it just doesn't seem possible to me to give my loyalty to God, and then try and give it to a government at the same time. Jesus also said " My kingdom is not of this world". Jesus has a kingdom, and just like an earthly kingdom , I can't be loyal to two kingdoms at once. It would be impossible to be loyal to the USA and Iran at the same time! It's the same with being part of the kingdom of God. Jesus calls us to be loyal to his kingdom, and if we have given our loyalty to God's kingdom, how then can we try and give it to America or any other worldly kingdom? 
To sum up: Pledging allegiance to the flag equates to making an oath of loyalty to an earthly kingdom. Both acts are condemned by Jesus. I'm ready to stop pledging loyalty to the United States or any other kingdom other than the kingdom of heaven. How about you? 

May the peace of Christ be with you today, and in a small way his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Viva la Revolution! 



  1. Matt,
    I believe that you are in fact entitled to your own opinions, and am not challenging your sense to search deeper into your relationship with God. I think it's great that you are able to question things of the world and search for your own identity among them. However, keep in mind that the entire goal of Jesus' teachings is to preach love. Though you would argue that that is exactly what you are fighting for as you declare pacifism, be careful not to allow these views also to become a single track for your thought processes. I disagree that the Pledge of Allegiance is in any way making the country our "master". In saying the Pledge we are declaring that the country is "under God" and asserting loyalty to the Godly principles "for which it stands". Scripture, as I'm sure you know can be interpreted from so many different standpoints. I view the passage you cited earlier differently. I think that the emphasis of the passage is more about being true to your word than labeling oaths as a sin. The very nature that the truth has become so subjective in this world that an oath has a different importance than a simple yes or no is the bigger problem. Jesus is telling us that all we should need to say is "yes" or "no" to demonstrate loyalty. That doesn't mean that a pledge to something (especially to the Godly values of our country) is evil. That being said, I personally say the pledge as a promise to be the hands and feet of Jesus in my own country. We are pledging to do God's work in our nation. No need for a "revolution".

    1. Friend,

      Thanks for the comment. If you know me personally I'd love to know who it is, if not feel free to remain Anonymous. I understand that the point of the passage on making oaths is about being true to your word. However, Jesus does clearly say "do not swear an oath AT ALL". We can twist his words or talk about the reasoning behind the command and skip around the words all we like, but the instruction remains the same. I think it is awesome that you are pledging to be the "hands and feet " of Jesus in our country, however, that is not what the pledge is actually about. By your reasoning it seems I could take any creed I like (from the Nazi's, a Satanic Creed, or the North Korean National Anthem) and as long as I am thinking of it in a different light than it actually is, there's nothing wrong with it. You did also mention that there is nothing wrong with pledging to the "godly values of our country", would you mind expounding on those values? To clarify, the Revolution I am talking about is the awakening of Jesus-followers to come out from the nationalistic idolatry we have been in bed with for so long.

    2. Anon...pledging to Christ to seek and serve him in others is awesome. Both our neighbors, and our enemies. While pledging the flag you may be able to parse those differences in your own mind, it is a public act of allegiance to one nation above all others. Especially in light of tomorrow, the day of Pentecost, isn't it pretty important to say that God is bringing all nations together into one people?

      Whoever is a friend to the u.s. is not necessarily my friend, and whoever is an enemy to the u.s. is not necessarily my enemy. These are some of my thoughts about the implications of the scriptures as a whole...God doesn't respect our nations or boundaries as much as he is bringing them under his own banner (or flag).

      Moreover, public ceremonies are a way of disciplining our bodies towards what is important, but the flag and, especially, the national anthem are symbols are tied up in a whole system of meaning that are often tied up in violence (rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air). Patriotic displays, whether you intend it or not, say to others "my country above all". If everybody thought this way there would be a lot of wars. As it is, enough people believe it for there to be a lot of wars. And most (if not all) think that their country is based on some timeless (or God-blessed) principles. It doesn't solve the problem of national favoritism - it inflames it.


  2. To both of you,
    Again, I would like to start by saying that I agree with several points of yours. My perception does not at all conflict with the idea that Christ's kingdom includes people of the earth without national boundaries and divisions. I am saying that my personal view on not taking an oath at all differs from that explained in the blog. Does that mean that your marriage oath is also something that goes against Christ's instruction? You already stated that pledging "allegiance" is "similar" to an oath. Even "oath" is not the exact word that Jesus would have used (haha He obviously didn't speak English). So to interpret the word oath so literally even as a translated choice and then apply it to the pledge of allegiance seems a bit stretched to begin with (in my opinion). I'm also not going to argue that our country has always upheld the most Godly values in the least. Just because I'm pledging "allegiance" to the nation I live in does not mean that I align myself to every stance that has been made for our country. I am not "taking an oath" to support everything that happens within our nation's boundaries. I am choosing to voice my respect for our nation and be active in a democratic system that allows me to support my own stances. I too am humbly searching for God's will in me as an individual, and His influence in and beyond our country's national boundaries.

    1. Thanks for the response! I appreciate your view (even though we don't agree) and it gives me things to think about. I think my post has done the same for you as well. As you said in your first comment, the sum of Jesus' life and teaching was love. I don't believe that my stance as a pacifist(which is rooted in love) has become a "single track" for my thoughts. I DO very much aim to have love be that single track. Love has no national boundaries and doesn't pick sides. It is like one giant bear hug around humanity. Saying the Pledge is another way to me of picking sides. If I am FOR America, that very easily turns into exclusion of OTHERS, something I definitely don't want. I'm not saying that you are personally excluding others in the world from your love. However, as is often the case, when saying the Pledge people are giving allegiance to one nation over another. I would rather give my allegiance to God's kingdom and therefore not place anyone in the OTHER category, for his kingdom does not wage war with other nations, but fights a spiritual battle for the benefit of all mankind.

  3. Great thoughts Matt, I could not agree more. While I love America, we are Christians first and citizens of the Kingdom of God. It is our job to promote the Kingdom, not the empire of America.
    I love your other thoughts here too. You will get push back from some believers, but you are on the right path.
    Grace to you.
    Mark Lee

  4. Really though.... what about your marriage oath? I'm just curious about your views on that...

    1. To clarify, I did not make a "marriage oath". My wife and I made promises to each other. We did not swear by (make an oath) anything. In a traditional marriage ceremony, the Spiritual leader will read a set of promises to each party and the husband and wife will both reply with a simple "I will" or "I do". Either answer would be well within Jesus' instruction to say simply "yes" or "no". Also, marriage as defined by the Scripture is a covenant, which is an entirely separate thing from an oath.