A number of years ago I attended a basketball game at a Christian school. Just before the game everyone was asked to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance. So I stood, placed my hand over my heart, and began to recite our national creed. Halfway through, however, I began to wonder what I was doing. I’m called to live as a foreigner in a strange land. I’m called to be a citizen of the Kingdom that is not of this world. I’m called to live as a soldier stationed in enemy occupied territory who has the job of carrying out the will of my enlisting officer. Yet here I was pledging allegiance not to Christ, but to the flag of a foreign land in which I happened to be stationed.
Early Christians were willing to be martyred rather than express allegiance to the Roman Empire, but here I was expressing allegiance to the American empire. This didn’t seem right. I stopped and haven’t said the Pledge since. I love America, but I cannot serve two masters. My allegiance must be pledged to Christ alone.
I acknowledge that people have different opinions about this matter. Some have told me they recite the Pledge to express support for the good things America stands for, not to express their ultimate allegiance to it. Others have told me they do it out of respect for those who have sacrificed their lives to defend our rights and freedoms, but again, not to pledge their ultimate allegiance. Others have told me they do it simply because they feel like a communist if they don’t. Fine. My concern isn’t with this particular American ritual.
What concerns me is that it doesn’t even occur to many American Christians that there might be a conflict between their allegiance to Christ and their Pledge of Allegiance to America. Their faith has become so nationalized that they assume these dual allegiances are compatible. This is an idolatrous assumption, and it helps explain why the lives of most American Christians are indistinguishable from the lives of their pagan American neighbors. We’re failing to revolt against the pagan values of our nation because the nation with its pagan values, has our allegiance—to the point that many followers of Jesus don’t even recognize the pagan values as pagan. They rather think the nation, with its values, is basically “Christian”!
It’s time for Kingdom people in America to be done with this. Our ultimate allegiance cannot be to America or any other country. It cannot be to a flag, democracy, the right to defend ourselves, the right to do what we want, the right to vote, or the right to pursue happiness however we see fit. We are Kingdom people only to the extent that God alone is King of our lives, and thus only to the extent that we revolt against the temptation to make any cultural values or ideas supreme.
—Adapted from Myth of a Christian Religion, pages 87-88.
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