Why Christians Might Want to Abstain From Reciting “The Pledge of Allegiance”

The “Pledge of Allegiance” is one of those issues that surfaces in the news consistently– usually regarding debate over the line “under God”. Conservative Christians want to fight to keep “under God” in the pledge, while secularists and others prefer it be removed, thus restoring the pledge to its original state.

Because the pledge has been recited at the start of every day in nearly every school across the country, questioning this practice has been something that Christians on a large scale have failed to do. As a result, it has become so ingrained in our culture that recently a teacher in NJ who was not having her students recite the pledge was accused of “indoctrinating” them (which is odd– refusing to participate sounds like the opposite of indoctrination to me.)

However, I think we’re having the wrong discussion on this issue entirely. Instead of a constant cultural debate over the wording of the pledge, I think a better question is:

Should a Christian recite the pledge of allegiance at all?

Admittedly, I never once asked myself this question until the last year or two. Once I really started to consider the issue from all sides, I was actually really disappointed that it had taken me so long to actually see this issue for what it was. In the end, I have become convinced that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is something that a Jesus follower probably shouldn’t do.

First off, the word pledge means “A solemn binding promise to do, give, or refrain from doing something”, which in and of itself should raise some concerns. In Matthew 5:34 Jesus teaches his disciples that followers of his should not take oaths at all– that we should simply let our “yes mean yes and no mean no”. While one might debate whether or not a “pledge” is the same thing as an “oath”, I think in reality they most certainly are. While pledge is defined as “a solemn binding promise”, an oath is defined as “a solemn, formal declaration or promise to fulfill a pledge, often calling on God, a god, or a sacred object as witness.”

Personally, I don’t see how making a pledge is any different than taking an oath– and on that matter, the teachings of Jesus seem pretty straight forward when he said, “But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all.”

Secondly, I think it is important to ask What or who are we making a pledge to?”

In the Pledge of Allegiance, we are making a solemn, binding promise of loyalty “to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands”.

This means, first we are taking an oath– something Jesus taught us not to do, and secondly, as we take this oath we are not swearing our loyalty to Christ but instead to an earthly kingdom.

So the question becomes: how can a follower of Jesus swear their loyalty to anything or anyone other than Jesus himself?

While I love my country, I can no longer in good conscience swear my loyalty to her– because my loyalty is solely with Christ and his Kingdom. I will be a good and supportive citizen in the country I live, so long as those aspects are consistent with the Kingdom Jesus came to bring to earth. But the moment those two no longer line up? My loyalty is to God’s Kingdom– even if that means I must be disloyal to the earthly kingdom I find myself in. As such, there is simply no way that I could in good conscience “pledge my allegiance” to this earthly kingdom, knowing that I very well will eventually have to break that solemn oath.

Jesus warned us that it simply is not possible to divide our loyalties. When using the example of money, Jesus taught that it is impossible to “serve two masters because you will love one and hate the other”. And, Jesus was right about this principle– pledging our loyalty to two different entities is simply not a tenable thing one can do. Trying to be loyal to two things which are not identical, is a practical impossibility.

Now, many Christians may read this and say “I don’t have a problem saying the Pledge of Allegiance, but I agree– if I have to choose to be loyal to God or country, I’ll always choose God”. If this is the case, the third problem that arises is that such an individual, when making the Pledge of Allegiance, is actually being dishonest. If one is not prepared to actually give their solemn allegiance to the country “for which it stands” above all else, then one should not make that commitment in the first place. While Jesus clearly seems to forbid oath taking, if one were going to do so anyway, it seems it would at least be good and right to only do so in situations where one could actually fulfill that solemn promise.

Since I am a “citizen of heaven” as scripture states, I cannot in good conscience pledge my allegiance to an earthly kingdom. Not this kingdom, not any kingdom.

If you’ve never considered this issue before, I hope you’ll give it some thought and take time to consider the implications of pledging one’s allegiance to a kingdom that is not at all aligned with the Kingdom of God, and that we’ll begin teaching our children from an early age the truth:

Our allegiance should be pledged to the ways of Jesus, and nothing else.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Elizabeth

    I’ve often had thoughts like these, though you really called us out about being dishonest, love words that convict! At a children’s event the other day I didn’t put my hand on my heart and kinda mumbled during the pledge….so what will you do in that situation? Remain sitting? Be silent? Step out of the room? How do we live this out? I’ve always hated that our church with several children from other countries does the pledge before a program but I see that I should hate it for our American kids too.

  • melaniespringermock

    My husband holds to this conviction, and is on our city’s school board. He (and another Quaker on the board) stand for the pledge, out of respect, but they do not say the pledge. No one has questioned them or challenged this practice.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    My advice is to simply be respectful. If everyone stands, then stand and remain quiet and respectful. No need to leave the room- just quietly and respectfully abstain from participating. My daughter recently decided to no longer say it, and she simply stands respectfully and remains quiet while the others say it.

  • Anna Marion Howell

    You’re right. No need to make a statement by stomping out or having a tantrum. No need to be disrespectful. Just honor your convictions. Very well-said.

  • UWIR

    There is no need to make a statement against bigotry, or even be disrespectful of bigotry? What a horrible attitude your have.

  • Mark

    Sounds reasonable. Like when I’m at church, and they play songs with words like “I’m garbage, but God killed Jesus in my place.” I stand and don’t sing. And wonder how much longer I can continue to go to that church.

  • Alan Christensen

    This is what I do too. No one’s ever questioned me about it, but if they were to ask why I don’t say the pledge I’d love to see their reactions when I respond, “Because I’m a Christian.” Whaaa?

  • Ruthlessly Absurd

    I’m a teacher but I have some issues with the Pledge. I stand at attention, because a veteran once chided me for sitting during the pledge considering how important the flag was to him, which I respect, but I never say it. Kids have never asked me about it though, so I haven’t gotten in trouble/come to the attention of the authorities

  • tt

    As a sub, I stand up and get the kids started if I can’t get one to lead it, then I don’t say it. I have been more and more uncomfortable with it all the time for years. Making young children recite it feels like indoctrination to me, too.

  • Touma

    Another sub here: You wouldn’t believe the level of indoctrination in some schools. Many of the schools in my district require kids to say lengthy pledges to the school and such. It is VERY eerie.

  • tt

    Yep. One district I work in makes them recite the school mission statement. And the other makes them recite some sort of state testing mantra every day. Really bizarre and creepy.

  • Alan Christensen

    And (as far as I know) no school ever informs kids that they are not required by law to say it. (A 1943 Supreme Court ruling supports this.)

  • Steve House

    I’ve heard that word “indoctrination” a lot. There’s nothing wrong with indoctrination — unless you believe that there is no system of values or beliefs that are more worthy of teaching to your children than any other. Down that path lies great danger.

  • UWIR

    Your statement makes sense only if you believe that there is no system of values or beliefs that can be passed on to a new generation without indoctrination. Down that path lies great danger.

  • UWIR

    “I stand at attention, because a veteran once chided me for sitting during the pledge considering how important the flag was to him, which I respect”

    That doesn’t make any sense. What bearing down the importance of the flag have on saying the pledge?

  • Ruthlessly Absurd

    I don’t know. But it seems like a good compromise. Stand at attention, but not recite a spiel of vague indoctrination

  • UWIR

    I don’t believe in God. Other people do. A compromise is that the government not endorse either view. That the government endorses a particular view, but I not stand, is not a compromise, it’s the Christians getting their way. You’re falling for something called the “anchoring fallacy”: start out with a completely extreme position, then move to something slightly less extreme, and call it a “compromise”. Bullshit.

  • mattmcgraw

    Excellent as always, sir. Thank you for engaging Christ and culture with honesty and humility (most of the time /kidding). Be blessed.

  • melaniespringermock

    You are sounding downright Anabaptist in this post. One of the many reasons I remain a Mennonite in my heart and soul (though attend a Quaker church) is because of their conviction that we can not pledge allegiance to country and to God simultaneously, and that a Christian’s allegiance must be to God. This has gotten Mennonites in deep trouble at different points in our nation’s history, though their conviction remains. Thanks for a good post.

  • Marty Miller

    First, I think, being a god citizen falls under “Give unto Caesar the things tat are Caesar’s and unto Got the things that are God’s”.

    Perhaps the words of Ray Botlz’s song are appropriate:

    I pledge allegiance to the Lamb
    With all my strength, with all I am
    I will seek to honor His commands
    I pledge allegiance to the Lamb

    Read more: Ray Boltz – I Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb Lyrics | MetroLyrics
    http://www.metrolyrics.com/i-pledge-allegiance-to-the-lamb-lyrics-ray-boltz.html

  • http://sdcaulley.com sdcaulley

    I had never look at the Pledge in this way before. Something new to wrestle with. Thank you.

  • Ken Grant

    What’s really interesting is that the pledge started as ad copy to sell flags. I have not recited the pledge in years, I stand respectfully, but that’s about it. I believe in letting my actions speak for themselves, I’ve seen how easy it is for people to recite a pledge, then turn right around and vote for things that go against any kind of definition of liberty or justice.

  • jonphillips

    I, too, have questioned the Pledge of Allegiance in the last few years. I think it was after I read Greg Boyd’s “The Myth of a Christian Nation” when I stopped saying it. I haven’t made a stink about it yet but I don’t say it at school functions with my children or the sometimes at a church service on 4th of July occasions. I’m sure people notice, but so far nobody has approached me about it yet.

  • Anna Marion Howell

    That is an AWESOME book. Everyone should read it.

  • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James Jarvis

    I’m afraid the Pledge of Allegiance is one of those cultural things that I don’t understand as a Canadian especially the part about pledging allegiance to the flag. But then again we do sing God Save the Queen. Although I always just stand quietly and mentally sing the Sex Pistols version in my head. I do agree that Christians should not swear oaths, even though I love my country.

  • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

    Granted I don’t know the lyrics very well, but I feel like “God Save the Queen” is at least somewhat a different beast. Instead of pledging one’s allegiance to a nation, one is asking God’s protection over an individual. Said individual is a national leader, but still, it feels different to me.

  • Levedi

    I’ve long thought that having a pledge of allegiance was un-American. It should be doubly unappealing for Christians.

  • Anna Marion Howell

    This is a really interesting take on the Pledge and on oaths in general. When performing jury duty, testifying in court, and taking oaths of office, the person is always given the option “do you solemnly swear or affirm…?” and I think I would be much more comfortable with the “or affirm” option.

    Also, as a devout Christian, there are few things I would love more than to see “under God” removed from the Pledge. I have never said the Pledge with those two words and I never will. We are one nation, indivisible. Connecting religion and nationalism is dangerous and terrifying, and it shouldn’t be encouraged in any way. It’s a favorite trick of right-wing Evangelicals and, as “unfundamentalist” Christians, we should be very wary of any “City on a Hill” type rhetoric.

  • Sven2547

    Agreed. Even the placement of “under God” within the Pledge is atrocious. Why would someone want to separate “one nation” from “indivisible”?

  • Anna Marion Howell

    And especially to separate them with something so… well…. divisive!

  • James Stagg

    We might just……….upset……someone!

  • Steve House

    I somewhat agree, but at the same time, when the framers wrote the Declaration of Independence and rejected the idea that rights were granted by kings or governments, they understood that they had to come from somewhere. Their answer? They came from the Creator. Our whole philosophy of government is based on this idea — that rights are endowed by God, and not to be taken away by men.

  • UWIR

    If TJ had wanted to say that rights come from God, why did he not say “God”? I think that with as deliberative person as TJ, and as heavily considered document as the DoI, we should not be playing equivocation games. TJ almost certainly avoided saying “God” because TJ made a conscious, deliberate decision that the word “God” did not properly convey his position. You may consider “God” and “Creator” to be synonymous, but that does not give you license to re-write TJ’s words according to your beliefs.

    Also, this is one word in a document that has no official force. To claim that “our whole philosophy of government” is based on this is absurd.

    Furthermore, the framers believed lots of things. They believed that slavery was acceptable and that women shouldn’t vote. Do you think that all of their bigotry should be celebrated, or just their bigotry in this one area?

    In summary, it’s clear that you are simply making excuses for your bigoted desire to insult atheists.

  • Steve House

    Are you honestly saying that you believe that in Jefferson’s (and the founders…others critiqued his document) mind, “the Creator” was non synonomous with God?

    If so, I think you’re kidding yourself.

  • Steve House

    And let me add something: throwing mud is not the same as discussion. I haven’t said a word against agnostics or atheists. Calling someone a bigot is a shorthand way of saying you don’t have any other argument than calling me a name. For the founders to state their belief in God is not bigotry, any more than it is for you to state your non-belief.

    I’m saying that the ultimate source of our rights, in the minds of the people who produced and signed the document, was the Creator, which is synonymous with God. That is historical record and beyond dispute.

    Whether or not you believe in God, and how our society should weigh the sensibilities and sensitivities of atheists vs people of religion, is another question.

  • UWIR

    “And let me add something: throwing mud is not the same as discussion.”

    Criticism is not the same thing as throwing mud.

    “I haven’t said a word against agnostics or atheists.”

    Riiiight. You haven’t said anything against atheists. Just said that they lack belief in that on which our entire government is based. How could an atheists possibly be insulted by the idea that our government would collapse if atheists were in charge?

    “Calling someone a bigot is a shorthand way of saying you don’t have any other argument than calling me a name.”

    Criticism, along with not being the same thing as throwing mud, is not the same thing as calling people names. The fact that you are putting more effort into arguing that I shouldn’t say anything that hurts your feelings that actually arguing that they are not accurate says something about the strength of your position.

    “For the founders to state their belief in God is not bigotry”

    I didn’t say that stating a belief in God is bigotry, liar. I said that saying that belief in God is the central principle of our government is bigotry.

    “I’m saying that the ultimate source of our rights, in the minds of the people who produced and signed the document, was the Creator, which is synonymous with God. That is historical record and beyond dispute.”

    The word “God” conveys meanings that “Creator” that does not convey, or does not convey nearly as strongly. I find it highly likely Jefferson made a deliberate choice to avoid the word “God” due to the theological baggage that it carries. The “historical record” shows that Jefferson didn’t even agree with mainstream religion, let alone think that it was the source of rights.

    Also, you said ” Our whole philosophy of government is based on this idea”, yet you’re basing that on a document that is not an official government document, and ignoring the fact that the Constitution doesn’t mention God at all.

    “Whether or not you believe in God, and how our society should weigh the sensibilities and sensitivities of atheists vs people of religion, is another question.”

    How our society should weigh the sensibilities of atheists, and whether atheism is incompatible with our entire philosophy of government, are hardly separate issues.

  • http://www.theepiscocrat.com/ Episcocrat

    Agreed. Entirely. I became aware of this issue in 2004 during Memorial Day and July 4th weekends at church. I wondered why the congregation was singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” — of all songs — during a “worship” service. My worldview changed that year on such issues as national allegiance and the marriage of right-wing politics and the Christian religion.

  • Anthony

    “If one is not prepared to actually give their solemn allegiance to the country “for which it stands” above all else, then one should not make that commitment in the first place.”

    I hate to be the outlier here, but I don’t think the Pledge of Allegiance states or implies one must swear solemn allegiance “above all else.” The spirit of it, regardless of its origins, is to pledge allegiance to an ideal – a nation of people committed to liberty and justice (note that I do not believe the US meets this ideal).

    I have a serious question, though. When Jesus told his disciples they should not swear oaths, do you think he meant you should not swear an oath to anyone but Christ or you should not swear an oath in a way that makes something other than Christ equivalent or superior to him?

    It seems to me that most (if not all) people are devoted to things other than Christ, but good (whatever that means) Christians just devote themselves to Christ above all else. That is, I would say I am devoted to my wife and child even though I haven’t recited a pledge saying so. That doesn’t mean Christ isn’t first and being a good husband and father certainly do not conflict with Christian values.

    Do you think Christ would object to that, or would he object only if my devotion to my family was equal or superior to my devotion to him? If the latter is true, I would think pledging allegiance to an ideal that overlaps with some of what Christians are called to do (e.g., promote liberty and justice) wouldn’t be a big deal, so long as one’s devotion to that ideal does not supersede one’s devotion to Christ.

  • Steve House

    Well written and I agree — but I would point out one thing. I would wager that you have recited a pledge stating your devotion to your wife, and made some promises too. Wedding vows?

  • Paul Conklin

    pledge, promise and pledge of allegiance do not all mean the same thing. Allegiance has had many meanings, some more binding that others, and perhaps those of us who object are harking back to the definition that described the absolute faithfulness of subject to monarch.

  • Shannon

    A Christian should certainly consider why they’re doing what they’re doing and act according to their own conscience, but we must also be cautious about judging another Christians liberty either way.
    If we are to ‘love the brotherhood, fear God, and honor the king..’ , then I would suggest that the pledge for many simply falls into the category of honoring the king.
    If to another it feels like a violation of Jesus’ commands, than they certainly should abstain, with their fellow Christians support, and without judgement passed either way.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Yup– I’m not passing judgement, thus why it is entitled “why a Christian ‘might’ want to abstain”.

  • Anthony

    I don’t mean to call you out on your own blog, but….

    1. Suggesting that Christians who recite the Pledge are either disobeying Jesus’ commands or are being dishonest IS passing judgment, even if you prettied up your writing with words like “might.”

    2. I don’t think you should apologize for passing judgment as long as you aren’t suggesting that Pledge-reciters are heretics or bound for hell (you clearly did neither thing). Christians should be allowed to hold strong opinions.

  • UWIR

    ” then I would suggest that the pledge for many simply falls into the category of honoring the king.”

    To insist that all Americans be subservient to Christianity does not “simply [fall] into the category of honoring the king”, it falls under the category of being a bigoted jackass. If one wishes to “honor your king” there are plenty of ways of doing that other than insulting atheists.

    “than they certainly should abstain, with their fellow Christians support, and without judgement passed either way.”

    One should not pass judgment on people who do something that exists purely to insult atheists, and which contradicts their own putative religion?

    Also, “then”, not “than”.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Why do you keep bringing up “insulting atheists”? I’m not seeing anyone bashing atheists here.

  • UWIR

    You are seriously so wrapped up in Chbeistian proivilege that you’re going to pretend that the pledge isn’t a giant middle finger to atheists? What’s next, are you going to ask that someone explain to you why “nigger” is offensive? The fact that you have so little empathy for atheists that you can’t see how it’s offensive is itself offensive. And while I have not given a full account of all the ways that it offensive, you are responding to a post making note of it saying that Americans should be subservient to Christianity. The obvious thing would be to either dispute that it gives such a message, or to dispute that such a message is offensive.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    I’ve said American’s should be subservient to Christianity? I’m thinking you didn’t read the original post. I’m anti-pledge.

    I have so little empathy for atheists? You’re obviously unfamiliar with this blog- it’s one of the most atheist friendly Christian blogs on the internet with a large atheist following. You should take some time to get to know it, and get to know some of the people who frequent here, before making such assumptions.

  • UWIR

    I think that a careful reading of my post shows that in “it saying that Americans should be subservient to Christianity”, “it” clearly referred to the pledge, not to you.

    Just because you have more empathy than extreme right wingers does not mean that you have sufficient empathy. Making black people live under Jim Crow is better than making them live under slavery, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay. Jesus said “Love your enemy”, not “Be one of the least hateful of your group”. I don’t remember anything in the Bible about grading on a curve. 97% of Cranston residents voted for a guy who called a girl “an evil little thing” because she objected to a school prayer banner. “One of the most atheist friendly Christian” is a ridiculously low bar. So you don’t think atheists are agents of Satan bent of the destruction of America. What, you want a cookie?

    I characterized your lack of understanding how the pledge is insulting as lacking empathy. That is not an “assumption”. That is a conclusion drawn from facts.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    Stop.

    Just….stop.

    Mr. Corey is a Christian who wrote an article directed at Christians meant to give advice to Christians. Your frothing at the mouth (combined with your appalling spelling) does not make Mr. Corey the bigot you so desperately want him to be. All Mr. Corey is guilty of is advising his fellow Christians that there may be theological reasons to avoid saying the Pledge of Allegiance. That. Is. It. Whether or not the Pledge is meant to demean atheists is not the point of the article or the discussion and it is boorish of you to demand it to be. If you want to add your own perspective on how parts of the Pledge discriminate against atheist citizens, that is fine, but your fellow atheists expect you to behave like an adult if you do.

    And, speaking in my capacity as one of the most virulently angry atheists out there, Mr. Corey’s blog IS one of the most atheist-friendly religious blogs on the internet. There are two Christian blogs where I know I can freely express my views without the mod dismissing or banning me for being an atheist. This is one (the other is Rachel Held Evans). Your comparison of Ben to the Jim Crow south is both uncharitable and detrimental to your awkwardly phrased arguments.

  • UWIR

    Your frothing at the mouth (combined with your appalling spelling)

    I have calmly brought to other posters’ attention the way that they are ignoring the offensive nature of the pledge. That you simply dismiss opposition to bigotry as simply “frothing at the mouth” shows you to be a horrible person. And to top it off, you stoop to insulting me based on a few typos. I could have corrected my “appalling spelling” if I had remembered to do spell check, but you being an appalling human being is rather harder to fix.

    Also, you’ve now opened yourself to nitpicking your every misspelling. For instance, in another thread, you misspelled “whose”. And I think that this is likely not a typo, but you simply not knowing the difference between “who’s” and “whose”. I, on the other had, am quite aware that “Chbeistian “ is not the correct spelling, and had my computer not been acting up, I would have noticed and corrected it.

    does not make Mr. Corey the bigot you so desperately want him to be.

    I said that he lacks empathy, not that he is a bigot.

    All Mr. Corey is guilty of is advising his fellow Christians that there may be theological reasons to avoid saying the Pledge of Allegiance. That. Is. It.

    Corey flatly denied that the pledge insults atheists. So, no, advising Christians of theological considerations is blatantly not all he did, so you’re just posting bullshit.

    Whether or not the Pledge is meant to demean atheists is not the point of the article

    I would think that anyone who isn’t a complete asshole should think that whether the pledge is insulting is relevant to any discussion of whether it should be said.

    and it is boorish of you to demand it to be.

    What do mean, demanding it be? I have simply brought the issue up. Bringing up an issue you don’t want to talk about is “boorish”? Trying muzzle anyone who has a criticism is boorish.

    If you want to add your own perspective on how parts of the Pledge discriminate against atheist citizens, that is fine, but your fellow atheists expect you to behave like an adult if you as do.

    Bullshit. Your entire basis for your accusation of immaturity is the mere fact that I have added my own perspective.You throw around the phrase “frothing at the mouth”, you mischaracterize the discussion, you criticize me for daring to present my view, and you say *I* need to behave like an adult?

    And, speaking in my capacity as one of the most virulently angry atheists out there, Mr. Corey’s blog IS one of the most atheist-friendly religious blogs on the internet.

    That’s a dangling modifier, Mr. I-Like-To-Score-Points-By-Pointing-Out-Spelling-Mistakes.

    There are two Christian blogs where I know I can freely express my views without the mod dismissing or banning me for being an atheist.

    How you were able to write this without realizing that you are making exactly my point, I don’t understand. That Corey lacks one fault hardly means that we should give him blanket immunity from criticism regarding any other faults.

    To not ban atheists is something that is of such basic level of decency that we should not be lauding someone for doing so. That this is one of two blogs that doesn’t ban atheists is not a credit to this blog, but a debit to the other blogs. Whether intentional or not, Corey is participating in an egregious “good cop/bad cop” routine. Most Christians are wildly bigoted against atheists, so when a Christian comes along who doesn’t say, ban every atheist, we’re expected to fall over ourselves with gratitude. Bullshit. I’m not going to be grateful for being treated with basic human dignity. The very fact that you seriously consider “He doesn’t ban atheists” as meaningful praise just shows how much need there is to fight anti-atheist attitudes.

    Your comparison of Ben to the Jim Crow south is both uncharitable and detrimental to your awkwardly phrased arguments.

    I didn’t compare Ben to Jim Crow. I made an assertion (“Just because you have more empathy than extreme right wingers does not mean that you have sufficient empathy”) and then presented an extreme example to illustrate that claim more clearly. You clearly are severely lacking in reading comprehension.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    “Corey flatly denied that the pledge insults atheists”

    That is untrue.

  • UWIR

    I referred to the pledge as insulting to atheists. You replied to this by saying that you don’t see anyone bashing atheists. The clear implication is you were asserting that the pledge is not insulting to atheists.

  • AJ

    There’s a reason why so many Christians were put to death in ancient Rome, not so much because they were Christian but because they refused to bow and worship Caesar as a god. American Christianity is downright neutered in comparison. “A Pledge of Allegiance? Sure, why not. But let’s shoehorn ‘under God’ in there to make it more acceptable”

  • http://www.susanirenefox.com/ Susan Irene Fox

    Benjamin, this post makes so much sense to me, and thank you for causing us to think more deeply about our commitment to Christ in this way.

  • bobbyscott

    I love your blog but you lost me here…Several places in the Bible clearly state that we are to embrace the country’s we live (Roman’s, Hebrews, and several minor prophets to be specific)…the Roman’s example was written during a time when the church was being severely persecuted. Having a government that maintains order allows us, among other things, to achieve our mission. That doesn’t mean that we should “worship” our country as one of the earlier posters has eluded, it also doesn’t mean that we support those aspects that are counter to our beliefs, but we should be productive members of the societies that we live and (to paraphrase Mark Twain) support the country/government when it deserves it.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    I think you may have misunderstood my point– I certainly am not advocating that we not be productive members of society. In fact, I’ve dedicated my life to being the opposite.

    Also, refraining from the pledge doesn’t mean we can’t love or embrace our country– I do. But I also embrace my neighbor’s country and even my enemy’s country. However, on a theological note, I’d gently push back and note that biblically we’re actually called to live as immigrants and pilgrims– people who aren’t at home.

    I’m all for being a good citizen, and all for loving our country– I just can’t make a promise that I will always be loyal or that this present country will have my allegiance. I am an immigrant in this earthly kingdom, and there are certain things that immigrants don’t do in their host country. One of which, is place my hand over my heart and pledge myself to give my allegiance to her. I must reserve that only for God’s Kingdom.

    Hope that helps.

  • bobbyscott

    It helps…wish you had included those points a little more clearly in the article…maybe I missed it…

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    Benjamin L. Corey

    I think you may have misunderstood my point– I certainly am not advocating that we not be productive members of society. In fact, I’ve dedicated my life to being the opposite. Also, refraining from the pledge doesn’t mean we can’t love or embrace our country– I do. But I also embrace my neighbor’s country and even my enemy’s country. However, on a theological note, I’d gently push back and note that biblically we’re actually called to live as immigrants and pilgrims– people who aren’t at home. I’m all for being a good citizen, and all for loving our country– I just can’t make a promise that I will always be loyal or that this present country will have my allegiance. I am an immigrant in this earthly kingdom, and there are certain things that immigrants don’t do in their host country. One of which, is place my hand over my heart and pledge myself to give my allegiance to her. I must reserve that only for God’s Kingdom. Hope that helps.
    10:41 p.m., Tuesday May 20

    Reply to Benjamin L. Corey

    Benjamin L. Corey’s comment is in reply to bobbyscott:

    I love your blog but you lost me here…Several places in the Bible clearly state that we are to embrace the country’s we … Read more
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  • Levedi

    He actually did make those points quite clearly in the original article. There’s no need to go on chiding an author when he’s kindly explained himself to you again.

  • bobbyscott

    ??? I think I said I may have missed the point in my response…did I miss something??? Second, I didn’t chide him, merely that I didn’t follow his argument THIS TIME. Shesh!

  • http://www.theprogressivesoul.com/ Chris Hyde

    I have had some hesitancy in saying the Pledge of Allegiance recently…along with putting my hand over my heart for the national anthem. I think some of it has to do with reasons you’ve stated here but I think there are some other issues as well. I’ve felt very alone in my feelings and very self-conscious about them. So you’ve given me some permission here and I really appreciate that.

  • Derek King

    The Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the US is even more eye-opening for this discussion because of the need to “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen”

    http://www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship/naturalization-test/naturalization-oath-allegiance-united-states-america

  • http://schleitheim.com/ Eddie Gonzalez

    Amen. I made the same point a few years back, though you have articulated far better than I did. My main thrust isn’t merely on the allegiance, but as you alluded to, words have meaning. If you don’t mean what you say, then why say it? We teach our kids that words are important. What we say and how we say it are important. And the Pledge is not something to take lightly. We’ve talked about it with our kids for years, and it even came up again last week. They prompted it. And I found they are quite wise and understand the significance of what you say and what it means to make a pledge to a flag made by man and a country/government made by man.

  • jason

    Interestingly, I was at a Kiwanis luncheon two days ago with my brother-in-law and they said the pledge. I did not. It was a bit awkward as I stood there respectfully without putting my hand on my heart or saying anything. I decided almost a decade ago that I would not pledge allegiance to the flag but never really was in a situation where it was an issue until two days ago (and when I had jury duty).

    Anyways, glad to hear there are others out there who agree with me.

  • Paul Conklin

    I completely agree with not being able to not being able to pledge allegiance to both God and country. In my understanding of the word allegiance it means exactly that that to which pledge has your undivided loyalty, and you will do what he/she/it requires of you. Pledging allegiance to a second power is an act of treason to the first, unless you are quite certain that the second power would never ask you to do something that contradicted the wishes of the first.

    I beg to differ on the oath part, though. I think an oath and an pledge are very different. In an oath, you are stating that the power by which you swear will punish you if what you say isn’t true, or that the one receiving the oath can take that by which you swear if your statement turns out to be false. (I remember being told that the Greeks or the Romans used to put their hand on their crotch and swear by their testicles.) So Jesus is telling his disciples to be truth tellers all the time, with no need for oaths to say “now I’m really telling the truth”. And to swear on oath by God I would claim is rather presumptuously telling God what to do.

  • Steve House

    Pardon me, but I think everyone is taking the idea of “allegiance” way too far. It means loyalty to something. I’m loyal to a lot of things, wife, friends, family, country, certain ideals, and God, among others.

    When I pledge allegiance to “the Republic for which it stands”, I know what that Republic stands for. It is written in the Constitution, and that document does not conflict with my Christian beliefs. If tomorrow we amended the Constitution in a radical way, then it would no longer be the same Republic, and my pledge would no longer be in effect.

    I think everyone is straining at a gnat here.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    The US constitution, which stated that blacks are 3/5th’s of a whole person doesn’t conflict with your Christian beliefs? The idea of buying and selling people doesn’t conflict?

  • cordobatim

    It helps me to remember that the root of the word “allegiance” is liege… lord.

    I’ll pledge my allegiance to the Lamb, not to an earthly country.

  • Tedd

    This goes way beyond the Pledge of Allegiance. Now we’re getting into the Quaker territory to be sure. If a Christian cannot make this pledge, neither can a Christian join the military. The enlistment oath and the oath of office for commissioned officers have even more exacting language.

    For example, here is the oath I swore when I was commissioned in the US Coast Guard Reserve:

    “I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and
    defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies,
    foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the
    same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation
    or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge
    the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

    Note the same taking of an allegiance but with the added caveat of “true faith” and even further, “I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion.”

    This oath is not optional. It is required by Section 3331, Title 5, United States Code. There are two optional elements: One can “swear (or affirm).” And one is not obligated to use the phrase, “So help me God.”

    So where to now? A Christian cannot join the US military. We don’t have to discuss the concept of a “Just War.” Nor do we have to figure out the morality of a Christian participating in the military war efforts to protect the innocent. The oath alone precludes our participation.

    Having served for 25 years, 6+ in the USAF including a time in Vietnam and 18+ in the USCG doing more “domestic” and life saving kinds of things, this presents a problem in two ways:

    1. Even though I am retired, I still carry a USCG Commission (as is true of all commissioned officers). It is not true for enlisted personel or warrant officers.
    2. The USCG is one of our armed forces and becomes a part of the US Navy in time of war.

    Where do we draw the ethical/theoretical/practical lines?

  • Tedd

    However, in a vein similar to your article, I cannot stomach the idea of “Proud to be an American.”

    Rather, I am grateful to have been born here and to have the privileges of freedom of worship and others.

  • Steve House

    But….that’s what it means to be an American. A citizen of the first country on earth to be founded on these principles. Nothing wrong with being proud of that.

  • Tedd

    Sorry, Steve. There is no reason to be proud of a nation that was “founded on these principles” once that nation has abandoned those principles.

    I don’t think being an American is defined by being proud of our country. I’d rather think that being an American is defined by something like, “My country, right or wrong. But, if it’s, wrong—fix it.”

    I am still under the oath I swore above: to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies,
    foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…”

    You’ll notice a subtlety of that oath that differs from the Pledge: by that oath, my allegiance is not to this country nor is it to the flag. It is to the “Constitution of the United States.”

    Given the language of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, I believe my oath—as well as other military personnel oaths—can stand under my ultimate allegiance to Christ.

  • Steve House

    I never said that “being an American is defined by being proud of our country”. It’s obvious that many Americans are not proud of their country. Michelle Obama, for example, famously said she was never truly proud of this country until her husband was nominated for President.

    I understand what you’re saying about the oath to the Constitution rather than to the country, but I still think that to a certain extent that is splitting hairs. The Constitution is what defines our country, not the behavior of people who live under it. If I’m proud of our Constitution, then I’m proud to be an American.

  • Tedd

    What you said in response to my comment about not liking the phrase “proud of my country” was, “But….that’s what it means to be an American.”

    I’m not sure I see any substantive difference between “that’s what it means to be an American” and “being an American is defined by being proud of our country.”

    All that is beside the main point of this piece: oaths and the allegiance required by those oaths.

    So I return to the main discussion and assert that the objections to the Pledge have a much wider implication when we consider that oaths of allegiance that are a mainstay of critical organizations including the US Senate, US House of Representatives, the Vice President, the Supreme Court Justices (they have a choice between two oaths) and the military to name a few.

    All swear allegiance to the US Constitution.

    The President swears an oath specified by the Constitution itself:

    I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

    Interestingly, the oath of office for the President does not include any reference to allegiance to anything.

    Again, if a Christian cannot, in good conscience before Christ, take the Pledge of Allegiance, neither can a Christian serve in any of those offices so named above.

  • Charles Haas

    I am reminded of the example of Daniel. He would not bow to idols and refrained from defiling his body, but he did serve the kings and countries (plural) that he served under. He did so without hesitation and with great honor and respect. We do serve God when we are serving our country (even if you are in exile) as all countries are under the direction of God. This does not mean that when we serve we can dishonoring God either. It is a fine line to be sure, but I don’t believe God feels dishonored if you pledge to serve the country He formed either.

  • Timothy Weston

    I leave the Pledge of Allegiance issue up to each person: I will not call their Christian practice into question if they recite it. In my case, I will omit “under God” from it.

  • stevenquerns

    http://themindofquerns.blogspot.com/2009/05/i-pledge-allegiance-to-flag-of.html

    Really, did you read and just re-write my post from 2012? Haha, Good Message.

  • stevenquerns

    actually it was in 2009 haha

  • Art Bucher

    Your making a pledge to TWO things: 1. “to the flag”, I.e., to the piece of cloth, and 2. “to the republic for which it stands”. Don’t glaze over the first part. It’s serious. Pledging your allegiance to inanimate objects is very often spoken against in Scriptures as idolatry.

  • Really Preposterous

    “…render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God.”
    “My kingdom is not of this earth…”
    Those statements seem to at least complicate if not contradict your thesis.
    What do you think?

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Not at all, in fact, it confirms them. My allegiance does not belong to Caesar, it belongs to God, so I cannot give it to Caesar.

    Secondly, Jesus did say his kingdom wasn’t of this world which is all the more reason to not give my allegiance to a kingdom that is of this world.

  • Alan Christensen

    Or another way to put it might be: All my earthly allegiances, including that to my country, are subordinate to my allegiance to God’s Kingdom. Earthly loyalties are conditional, our loyalty to God is absolute.
    I also have trouble with pledging allegiance to an object (the flag). Sounds kinda like idolatry to me.

  • skyjumperman

    I made an oath to my wife, “forsaking all others.” That was an oath of sorts. Would that be either dishonest, or idolatry in some form? I think not.
    “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, render unto God that which is God’s.”
    My priorities are God, Country, and family (#2 and #3 often compete for attention and placement).
    God is first, and the true master.
    Country and family I serve, as Christ taught me to serve.
    As a military man, God is first. I would disobey an order that is contrary to God’s conviction. I.e. to shoot an unarmed child, etc. Because God is the master, not my country.
    Just because I serve my country, does not make it my master. I serve my wife, I serve my community, yet neither are my masters.

  • UWIR

    “I would disobey an order that is contrary to God’s conviction.”

    More precisely, you would disobey any order that is contrary to what you believe to be God’s conviction. Given that “Things people believe are contrary to God’s conviction” include/have included such things as gay rights and the abolition of slavery, this is not a position that I find very comforting. A indoctrinated into believing is not a country I feel safe in.

  • mikehorn

    The question that I have is whether or not you would require others to align themselves with your version of religion? We make laws that need to apply across the board. We require vaccines in many places, violating some faiths. Life saving medicine like blood transfusions can be required of doctors and EMTs, regardless of personal faith. I’m inclined to require pharmacists to dispense prescriptions without veto power over the doctor/patient relationship. There was almost a situation in 2002/2003 when the Vatican was considering calling Iraq an unjust war (a mortal sin), which regardless of your opinion would have placed military Catholics into choosing between faith and their legally and morally binding oath to their country during time of war (cowardess, failure to obey orders, failure to deploy… Some of those are capital crimes during war).
    .
    Where does your opinion of your faith stop? Would you require church attendance? Would you outlaw divorce or cohabitation? Would you allow or prohibit plural marriage? Laws are important. When religious faith is free, the law cannot favor any particular faith over the rights of others. Are preachers on Sunday more powerful than the judge in a courtroom?

  • mikehorn

    For the record I do not say the Pledge either. The insertion of “under god” between “one nation, indivisible” ended up dividing us in really unfortunate and unnecessary ways. Since the Pledge cannot be a requirement by law, I choose not to spout theocratic nonsense.

  • Thisoldspouse

    Why is it that pagans always deign to tell Christians what they should and should not do?

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Who are you calling a pagan?

  • Chris Laning

    Agreed, and thank you. My religious communities (Quaker and Franciscan) agree with you as well.

    As for being “sworn in” as a witness or juror, I simply wait till the person administering the oath finishes and say “I so affirm” and I’ve never even received a funny look as commentary. Occasionally someone notices that I haven’t raised my right hand and looks a bit worried, but they always relax when I’ve affirmed that I will do as is expected. I assume it’s because they now gave a proper pigeonhole to file me in, “religious objector” rather than “troublemaker of uncertain type.”

  • UWIR

    When I was called for jury duty, there was a mass swearing-in, so I was able to remain silent without anyone noticing, but I given the whole concept of “silence equal consent”, I’m rather uncomfortable with that response. In that situation, one really only has three options. One is to say “so help me God”. Another is to remain silent, in which case one will be assumed to have said it. While one taking this option is technically left free to not say it, the effect is basically the same as if one had said it. The third option is to speak up and make a spectacle of oneself. No one should have to choose between these three options.

  • pagansister

    Due to my age, I was taught the Pledge without the added “under God” bit, I do not recite those 2 words when I pledge. It was a totally unnecessary addition. I have often wondered just whose god one would be referring to—a Christian god or a Jewish god etc.

  • VelikaBuna

    Exactly. There can be many concepts of god or gods.

  • pagansister

    My point exactly. :-)

  • JohnE_o

    Not even a nod to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in this post?

    They had pretty much worked out everything you wrote above eighty years ago or so.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Or Quakers, Anabaptists… JW’s are not the only group to hold this view.

  • lowtechcyclist

    I think it’s been more like 20 years since I thought about the Pledge long enough to be aware that, as a Christian, I had no business saying it.

    One key thing was the best answer I could come up with to “what is it, exactly, that I’d be pledging? What is this ‘allegiance’ thing?” which made me look it up in my American Heritage dictionary.

    The more ancient definition was “the obligation of a vassal to his overlord,” doubly emphasized by the root of ‘allegiance’ being ‘liege,’ as in one’s liege lord.

    Lord, you say? Um, I’ve already got one, thanks. And I don’t find any wisdom in giving some piece of that obligation or loyalty that belongs to Him to an earthly nation.

    It should be enough that I love this crazy country, and will do what I can to make it a better place.

    But obviously my ultimate allegiance must be to the Lord. And has it ever been a compliment to say of someone that s/he has ‘divided allegiances’? No; it’s an indication that such a person should be regarded with suspicion, as unreliable. So why give some allegiance to anything else?

    One response I’ve heard is that we all have multiple allegiances. To one’s spouse and children, for instance.

    But that’s different. I was called into marriage, called into parenthood as well. I won’t say it was about obedience, so much as my will and the Lord’s will being the same. But that co-incidence wasn’t just an added blessing; it was a necessity. That this is what I am called to, means that there’s no question that doing what is right in my relationships with my wife and son will also be doing what is right in my relationship with the Lord.

    Being called in a particular direction is a big deal in my life when it happens. Sixty years into this life, and forty-four years as a Christian, and the number of times it’s happened to me is in the high single digits. Suffice it to say I haven’t been called into a particular relation with any worldly powers, and that includes the U.S. of A. I have not been called to any such allegiance, so I really shouldn’t be pledging it, nor will I.

  • Steve House

    But ultimate allegiance needn’t mean only allegiance, and there is more than one type of Lord. All ordered societies are built upon obligations that the citizens of that society have to the society (substitute country here if you’d like).

    To go back to medieval terms, if you were a landowner in England, let’s say, you had at least two “lords” — your local earl and/or duke, and the King. And even the King could call another King his “lord” in certain circumstances — for example the King of England could do homage to the King of France as his Lord for Brittany or Aquitaine. If you’ve ever served in the military, your commanding office is, in effect, a lord over you. As long as they don’t demand to be worshiped, or command you to do something in conflict with your faith, then obedience is expected and given.

    You say that someone wiith a ‘divided allegiance’ should be regarded with suspicion, as unreliable — but I’ll tell you the truth, if you are someone who has lived under the blessings provided by our country for your whole life, and yet profess no allegiance to it, then I am suspicious of you.

    Jesus said to render unto Caesar that which was Caesar’s and there are things that a citizen owes their country. I’m sorry that you evidently don’t feel the same.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com/ Benjamin L. Corey

    Okay, so if it is possible to have divided allegiances, can I give both God and money my allegiance?

  • VelikaBuna

    No you can’t.

  • Steve House

    Well, let’s see. Jesus had a treasurer, he carried money, so he made sure his (the group’s money) was cared for, he financed his ministry with money that was largely donated by others. Should he have just thrown the moneybag down?

    Can you love both your wife and Jesus? And can you love your wife without giving any allegiance to her at all?

  • UWIR

    While I approve of your conclusion, I find your reasoning rather worrisome. You are treating the word “loyalty” to refer only to an absolute, unquestioning, unconditional obedience. And you are professing to have this commitment for a carpenter who has been dead for thousands of years, if he even existed at all. This sounds rather like Divine Command Theory. And the Nuremberg Defense.

    One can be loyal to someone, or something, without doing so unconditionally. One can join an army while reserving the right to refuse to obey illegal orders. One can commit to a spouse without having to cover up their crimes.

  • Livin

    Jesus warned us to not give oaths because yes and no should be sufficient due to the abuse of oaths with complex rules by the authorities.

    Matthew 23:16-22

    New International Version (NIV)

    16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

    The Apostle Paul recorded in the Epistle to the Hebrews one of the earliest NT books(circulated widely around A.D. 63) that the purpose of oaths is clarification that they hold no power themselves.

    Hebrews 6:16

    16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.

    This is why we can affirm all government oaths instead of swearing.

    Jesus said to give to Caesar’s what is his which is us while on earth. He taught the apostles to submit to authorities.

    Romans 13:4-6

    New International Version (NIV)

    4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.

    1 Peter 2:13-14

    New International Version (NIV)

    13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

    So we need to balance our duty to God with our duty to God’s servants which are the church and the government.

    So to say the pledge of allegiance is actually our duty to God and to show respect for God’s servants in the earthly kingdom(the government and the church. So oaths are not bad but you should examine the meaning of your words. You should also work to show the Christian way through submission and right living.

    In fact the Centurion understood this more than the disciples.

    Matthew 8:7-10

    New International Version (NIV)

    7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

    8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

    10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

  • John Lev

    As an atheist and Gulf War vet, I find you view refreshing. In this day and age where it seems that if one doesn’t automatically come to attention, salute and worship the military, you’re deemed “Un-American”. I didn’t serve so school-kids could be guilt-tripped into standing and/or reciting a pledge they don’t agree with. I didn’t serve so people would be coerced into giving blinded loyalty to our country. Thank you for this.

  • nate shoemaker

    It could be argued that the pledge is safe because it is under terms that are in unity with those of Jesus. In other words, your allegiance is pledged to the flag of the United States of America, and the republic for which it stands, so long as it is for one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. All good things, all arguably Godly things, in fact. Also, all things that the US struggles to actually be “for” from time to time. What this means, is your pledge is null when the “republic for which it stands” is no longer acting in those values of on nation, indivisible, and standing for liberty and justice for all.

    Christians have little to worry about because the republic will break its end of the pledge, rendering it void.