Sunday, July 3, 2011

Pledging Allegiance

I have begun to wonder of late if it is appropriate for citizens of the Kingdom of God to pledge allegiance to the flag of a nation that is not under God. The question is occasioned by the various lawsuits making their way through the courts on behalf of those who feel their rights to non-belief are trampled when they are forced to include the phrase “under God” in their national identity, contradicting their atheism. The courts have not been too comforting to the Christian community in their refusal to take the case or in the rationale for the decisions they make to retain the phrase. As nearly as I can tell, the logic for retaining the phrase boils down to this. The phrase “under God” is a cultural icon and, as such, has no inherent religious content. It is the same argument that has been used to preserve crosses on public lands and to argue for the display of the 10 Commandments in public courtrooms.

It presents a fascinating paradox. Atheists, on one side, claim the phrase is rich and full with religious meaning. Christians, on the other side, argue that the phrase is void of religious significance. I suspect that many of the Christians who celebrate the decisions are not aware of the rationale, and that those who are think the end justifies the means – keeping the phrase is worth removing any religious content it might have.

Considering the origin of the phrase and the background of its inclusion in the pledge in the mid-1950’s, the atheists appear to have the better case. “Under God” was inserted into the pledge, in part, to differentiate Christian America from atheistic and Communist Russia. Christianity was used to sharpen the differences with our enemy during the Cold War. Even then, however, it could be argued that the phrase had more political than religious content – much in the way conflicts between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland or between Christians and Muslims in some of the wars in the world are more about politics than religion.

But it did get me to thinking. Does a country really want its citizenry pledging allegiance unless they are under God? Promises made that are not under God don't seem to have much likelihood of fulfillment. Of course, followers of Jesus can't make a pledge of allegiance except under God, whether the phrase is included in the pledge or not. And that is what makes them good citizens - they are under a higher authority that makes their pledge good, or even possible.


  1. Of course, being under a higher authority--whether explicitly acknowledged at the moment or not--any allegiance can be only be conditional. No man can serve two masters. Thus, I'd be more comfortable with a pledge of gratitude and obligation, rather than strict allegiance anyway.

    Atheists would probably say that they place their moral code above dictates of the state as well. Given man's limitless self-justifying ability, a nation is safer when it's citizens consider themselves answerable to something more than their own ego and the law, and society would do well to encourage, though not enforce, such views, I think. Certainly one that wants to be the sole authority is fearsome.


  2. I started asking myself the same question after I left the school. I was teaching elsewhere, and some things I had taken for granted sudden;y started bothering me. First, if we pledged to the American and Christian flags and the Bible, why was the American flag first? This seems out of order to me. Yes, I am an American, and I was born such. But my identity is in Jesus Christ, not George Washington. I place my trust not in a flag or a political structure, and not even in the pages that make up the Bible, but in the person of the God-Man.

    I certainly don't ask or expect anyone to agree with me, but when I thought about the Pledge of Allegiance and considered what it said, I concluded that I could no longer say those words. Allegiance? To the Republic for which it stands? Allegiance belongs where one places one's focus. After all, man cannot serve two masters. If I ally myself with the things of this world, then I by necessity am shifting my focus off of eternity. I dare not.

    -c douglas

  3. For all the years that I have said the Pledge of Allegiance, I never had a problem with it, and I still don't. I feel proud to say it, or sing along with the National Anthem with my right hand over my heart. I feel blessed by God to be in a country with the opportunities, and freedom that I wouldn't necessarily have if I were born and raised in another country.

    Granted, there are a lot of things that happen in America and in our government that I am not proud of, and tell God that I am sorry that they did something stupid or sinful and ask for His mercy and grace on them who do not know what they are doing (of course ask Him to give them wisdom to make better choices!).

    I like your point: "followers of Jesus can't make a pledge of allegiance except under God, whether the phrase is included in the pledge or not. And that is what makes them good citizens - they are under a higher authority that makes their pledge good, or even possible."
    If "Under God" was taken out of the pledge, I believe I would stop saying it to protest. I am one of those Christians that believe that "under God" is under, well, God! haha. Not under some "god" from some odd religion/cult. And, the only reason why "Christians" say it's not a religious thing is to appease those who "could be offended". I just see postmodernity in this whole argument! >.<

    I serve God first and foremost. This allows me to freely work with or under people, allows me to freely prioritize my life and my "allegiances", and allows me to freely live, serve and love. If it was God's will, I would serve my country in the military as a Chaplain or something because this is the HOME that God gave me and my HOME that I take pride in. ;) The Anthem and Pledge are just more of a "pride" and "thankful" thing.

  4. Thank you for your comments and the discussion.

    Allegiance is a tricky word, it appears - with priorities and alliances all of its own. I am concerned with a kind of discipleship in which nothing trumps national identity, tribal identity, family identity. They each have their place, but none in first.