In 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.