Pledging Allegiance, Part II

Girl Pledging Allegiance to the FlagIn response to my previous post on pledging allegiance, I received a couple of good questions that I’d like to follow up on.  The first issue is lexical – what am I taking “allegiance” to mean, and the second is a matter of degree – how far am I willing to go to show “allegiance” to our country.

I had originally intended to discuss the lexical issue in the first post, but then decided to postpone.  Now I get to play catch-up.  The problem arises between the first definition and the second.  Back in the early days of the English language, back in the 14th century when there were knights, castles, lords, and vassals, “allegiance” was the word used to describe the obligation of a feudal vassal to his liege lord.  As in “alLIEGiance.”  But as we have done with many other words, this one later came to mean other things, more general than specific, to express ideas like  “devotion” or “loyalty.”

It is this later, secondary definition that I believe is meant by the Pledge of Allegiance in the United States.  Of course, you might say, “Yeah, but – it was written by a socialist.  Don’t you expect it was meant to actually mean feudal allegiance?”  Perhaps.  I have no idea what Francis Bellamy was hoping the generations of Americans that came later would think.  But what I do know with certainty is that Bellamy wrote the Pledge after the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, which in no uncertain terms made clear that all men are created equal, thereby preventing anything that would later be used to describe all Americans and their unity from indicating that we are vassals under obligation to a lord. 

Which brings me to another point about Francis Bellamy – I’ve seen some people criticize him for the Bellamy salute, saying that it mimicked and copied the Nazi salute.  Except that Bellamy made his salute popular in the late 1800s and died in 1931.  The salute made popular by Hitler wasn’t even adopted by the Nazi party until the 1930s.  So enough about Bellamy = Hitler.

It is my firm belief that “allegiance” only refers to a devotion and loyalty that we as citizens of these United States share towards our country.

As I mentioned earlier, the second issue is one of degrees.  The comment was made to me:

If we were Christians in China today or the Soviet Union twenty+ years ago, I doubt either of us would advocate pledging allegiance to that country, singing its national anthem, or holding any patriotism toward our nation whatsoever. How bad would it have to get for you to consider the United States a “beast”? Where would you personally place the line?

How bad would it have to get for me?  Well, to start with – 73% of Americans still identify themselves as Christians.  And despite things looking gloomy and depressing here in the States – it’s still NOTHING like it is in China.  Although it’s impossible to get anywhere near an accurate number, roughly 4-5% of the Chinese are Christian.  My suspicion is that the Soviet Union back in the ’80s would have been roughly similar.  So no matter how sorry we would like to feel for ourselves, the United States is still one of the friendliest places in the world to the Christian religion.  Yes, the government is encroaching on our faith.  Yes, as a whole we have abandoned orthodox Christianity as a culture.  Yes, our society sacrifices to the gods of immorality by offering up condoms and abortions.  It’s not pretty.  But that’s what we find wherever Christ is not being faithfully served.

What does it look like in your household when Mom’s upset at the kids and Dad’s frustrated with Mom?  What does it look like when sin has taken root in your house?  Is it pretty?  I’d hope you wouldn’t think so.  When that happens do you throw out the vows from way back when when Mom and Dad got married?  Do you throw out the vows you made when your family joined your church and promised to live faithfully and in accordance with the Scriptures?  Of course not!  Instead, you go back to those vows.  You remind yourselves what you promised each other – the devotion and loyalty and love that you hoped would characterize your relationship.

I don’t believe in “my country, right or wrong” any more than I believe in “my family, right or wrong,” or “my marriage, right or wrong.”  There’s only one relationship that is primary – that holds my utmost allegiance.  And my other secondary allegiances only deserve to be dropped when they have taken the place of that primary allegiance.  If I can no longer serve my King and God, then I have no business serving or honoring or “pledging allegiance” to my country.  My country is fallen – she is no heavenly Kingdom.  But she is my country.  I love her.  I stand up for her when she is right, and I disapprove, condemn, and call her to repentance when she is wrong.  My country is not a beast, and I pray that God will grant her and her citizens the ability to see clearly so that she never reaches such a point.  There is much work to be done to recover certain truths and morals that have been lost, but there is also a large remnant of faithful, convicted Christians that see these errors and desire to bring our country around.  I’m not saying it will be easy.  It won’t be.  Dealing with sin is never easy.  But it is right and good to do so.  And to do so I will strive with all my might.

Continue Reading

Pledging The Right Kind of Allegiance

Earlier today, R.C. Sproul Jr. posted an article on Christians pledging allegiance to the United States’ flag.  He gave some true and necessary concerns in defending his position that we shouldn’t, but I’d like to offer a friendly, iron-sharpening-iron critique in defense of the affirmative view of national allegiance.

I should begin by saying that I deeply respect RC and the work he does, and love him as a Christian brother.  He is a faithful father and servant leader.  That, of course, does not mean that I necessarily agree with everything he thinks or says, but if there’s anything I value most about RC, it’s his desire to hold a friendly and charitable discourse over potentially controversial topics.  It is my intent to keep this response in line with such charity.

Also, I would like to highlight that I, like RC admits in his last paragraph, love my country.  Not only that, but I also weep for her and fear the judgment of God because of our sinfulness and idolatry.  I, too, “look for that city whose builder and maker is God. I love my country, but because I, by His grace, have been made a part of that royal priesthood, my commitment is to that holy nation (I Peter 2:9). I love my country, but my allegiance, my loyalty is to Jesus Christ.”

So where do I disagree, you ask?

Allow me to begin with that last paragraph, and to offer a more general critique.  RC spends a large portion of the post defending his negative response to “pledging allegiance” by pointing out that we, as a country, are no longer any of the things we’re claiming in the Pledge (a Republic, under God, liberty and justice for all…), but then negates all of that by saying in his last paragraph: “The truth of the matter, however, is that were we what we once were, were we what I hope and labor that we will be again, I still could not in good conscience pledge my allegiance.”  If this is the case, why spend all that space talking about how we shouldn’t be pledging our allegiance because our country is no longer any of the things we’re pledging? This final admission would appear to indicate that RC’s actual holdup is “pledging allegiance” to anything other than Jesus Christ and that holy nation, not whether our country meets the standards of said Pledge.

But for argument’s sake, let’s evaluate whether or not we should ever bother pledging allegiance when the object of our allegiance fails to meet the standards set before it.  This leads me to ask whether or not we should bother with our marriage vows, knowing that we are going to fail them at some point, being sinful and imperfect beings.  Should we not promise our spouses (and then remind ourselves regularly) that we pledged to one another, “I, ____, take you, ____, to be my lawfully wedded(husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”?  I’d hate to think what might happen to the sacrament of marriage if that was also tossed out the window.  The point being – we shouldn’t merely refuse to pledge allegiance (or stop reminding ourselves of that pledge by repeating it) because the object is no longer living up to the appointed standards.  Rather, I would suggest that because we have so pledged, we have a duty and responsibility to resolve our failings and renew our covenant with the reformed object of our pledges.  That’s what Jesus does time and again in our worship services – He renews His covenant, His pledge to us – the objects of His pledge who have failed miserably to meet His standards.  After all, nations will fail, kings will fail, and spouses will fail.  Only Jesus will not.

Next, we should ask whether it is good and right to even show loyalty and devotion to an object like our country.  Remember how the Gospel came to be spread – remember what Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”  This is a national association.  There was an allegiance, an identification according to which country you belonged to, whose ancestors came before you.  Even Jesus showed a love for His country, weeping over her. (Luke 19:41-44)  This love for Jerusalem, a particular city with a particular people, wasn’t His primary allegiance – it wasn’t the primary object of His devotion, but that doesn’t prevent the Son of God from showing affection for it.  I’m not advocating an unholy, primary allegiance to the United States by any means, but we can have a love of country that is manifested in things we do and say.  In this day and age we have borders that are defended and monitored.  We have processes by which immigrants can “become Americans.”  Having a “pledge” by which Americans identify with one another and show their devotion to the land they live in does not prohibit or take precedence over the allegiance that we should all have to our Father in Heaven and the Heavenly Kingdom.  All such allegiances are secondary.  To use the marriage analogy again – our allegiances to our spouses are secondary to our allegiances to our Bridegroom – Christ.  In fact, our allegiance to Christ betters and improves all our secondary allegiances.  The one does not preclude the other.

But does all of this mean that we can go on our merry way, happily chanting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the Star-Spangled Banner without any further thought?  Of course not.  All things require the proper perspective.  If we say the Pledge five times a week in our schools but fail to say the creed more than once a week, then something’s seriously out of whack.   Like it or not, such actions indicate either a conscious or unconscious idolatry.  The same thing applies if we celebrate all our national festivals (President’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving) and fail to remember the season and feasts of the Church calendar.  We need to recover an attitude that prioritizes our allegiance to Christ and His Church.  But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Let’s end our idolatry and show allegiance to our country and to our leaders in a way that honors the One who holds our ultimate allegiance.  Then we can wave our flags, shoot our fireworks, and pledge our allegiance to the United States … because the King of Kings knows that all our loves of country are subservient to our allegiance to Him.  After all, in Him is true justice and liberty, and in Him we as Christians are indivisible and one united Nation.

Continue Reading

Jesus Wins

CongressUnless you’re living in a hobbit-hole or go through life without a TV or computer (in which case you won’t be reading this), you’re probably aware of a few worrisome headlines around the country.  To name a couple – the Boy Scouts of America are reported to be considering dropping the organization’s ban on gays, plus we now have the addition of women on the front lines of our military operations.  To add to these cultural disappointments we have a presidential administration that has shown it is unafraid to stomp all over our religious liberties, as seen in the case of its battle with Hobby Lobby over healthcare, but also in a never-before-seen willingness to take on the most stable religious organization in the world – the Roman Catholic Church.  I could also mention that our federal government wants to solve gun crimes by clamping down on all gun users, believes that we should spend ourselves into oblivion, and still supports killing our offspring if we so choose, but by now you’re probably getting depressed.

Suffice it to say – our country has seen better days.

What should our response to be?

For starters – we must remember.  Remember the fall and decline of the empires before us.  Remember Greece, Rome, England… after all, we are not the first superpower in history.  Remember the lesson in Herodotus from Cyrus the Great: “soft lands tend to breed soft men.”  How much softer can we get when we smile upon homosexuality and desires our women to fight alongside our men in war?  Remember the history and legacy of our forefathers and founders.  For what purpose did they seek independence from England?  Certainly not in order to subject their descendants to the same type of oppression and government overreach that they experienced.

But most importantly, we must remember Psalm 2.  Remember that even though the kings of the earth set themselves against the Lord, He sits in the heavens and laughs.  God actually laughs at the efforts of mortal men who seek to lift themselves up.  He will not be mocked; He will not be fooled.  King David reminds us what God says in verses 7-9:

“I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

So we need to remember that Jesus is King of our country.  We don’t need to wait for another hundred or thousand years for Him to be King – He’s King right now!  This means that we have a duty and responsibility to stand up for plain, simple truths: as Christians, we can only do what Jesus has said is good, and we cannot do what He has condemned.

This means, and allow me to be abundantly clear, that if you are a Christian, you MUST NOT nor CANNOT smile upon the sins of homosexuality, adultery, or abortion.  It means you CANNOT support an ideology that allows for women in combat.  It means you CANNOT support candidates who aren’t actively working to pay off our country’s debt and decrease the size of government.

The fact of the matter is, if you’re a Christian, there’s almost no way you can be a Democrat.  And it means that if you’re a Republican, you’d better start holding your party and candidates accountable.  Yes, our country is in a bad way, and if we’re paying attention we’ll see our culture crumbling all around us.  Our culture wants to believe there is no God, and that there is no Judgement Day when all of us will be held accountable.  We seek god in our hearts as Disney taught us, or in our capitals as the “state” has taught.  Without the proper perspective, it is certainly possible to believe the darkness is winning and the light of the Gospel will be blown out.

But there is only one Savior – and He bled on the cross for our country.  In fact, He bled for the whole world.  If we are to be wise, we must continue to remember the words of Psalm 2 – “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.  Kiss the Son, lest  He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.”  Our savior is not found in the halls of Congress or in the White House – nor in Washington D.C. proper.  He is found in the heavens, laughing at the imaginations and plots of the kings of the earth.  Our Savior is Jesus, and Jesus wins.

Continue Reading