Earlier this year I wrote a piece on why Christians might want to abstain from reciting the pledge of allegiance which generated some good conversation, but also received a bit of push-back as well. My arguments against saying the pledge of allegiance are essentially two-fold: Jesus taught his disciples to not take any oaths but instead said to “let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no.” In addition, Jesus invites us to follow him and reminds us that “no person can serve two masters,” which means that it’s functionally impossible to give our allegiance both to Christ and to America– we must pick one or the other, but one cannot be equally loyal to both since they are different entities.
Still, even with the biblical arguments that I feel are straight forward (“I pledge allegiance to the flag” vs “…but I tell you, do not take a pledge”), some Christians are hesitant to let go of this tradition that as children we were indoctrinated to engage in– and I understand that. When you’ve had nationalism and tradition drilled into your head for years on end it can be hard to step back and realize that maybe we’ve been wrong– that’s how indoctrination works and why it’s so hard to break free from it. We grow up being taught that America is the greatest nation that has ever existed, that we are exceptional compared to others, that we are a “Christian” nation, and that whatever we do is good, right, and justified. And so, pledging to give our allegiance to such an entity is an easy sell, as the narrative we are given doesn’t seem on the surface to conflict with some basic understandings of following Jesus.
However, the release of the now infamous CIA Torture Report should be the final blow that closes the case on Christians reciting the pledge of allegiance. From reading the report, it should now be crystal clear to anyone who has read the teachings of Jesus as found in scripture that one cannot swear their allegiance to America while simultaneously giving our allegiance to the alternate way of Jesus. Absolutely, positively, impossible.
The contents of the report reveal what the US has done, and what has been done is anti-Christ– pure, absolute evil.
How a Jesus person could continue to swear allegiance to an entity that engages in behaviors that are so unarguably anti-Christ, sins against God, and crimes against humanity, is beyond me.
Should we be good citizens? Well, of course– though the Bible actually invites us not to live as citizens but to live as immigrants and exiles who are in a foreign land.
Should we be thankful for where we live and what we have here? Most definitely.
But should followers of the one who said “love your enemies” and “do good to those who hate you” swear their allegiance to a nation that brutally tortures both enemies and innocent victims? (The report shows we accidentally tortured some of the good guys, too.)
Absolutely not. But also know that refraining from pledging our allegiance to America isn’t anti-American, and it’s not an abdication of gratitude. Instead, it’s simply the recognition that allegiance cannot be divided between following America and following Jesus.
That is, by definition, swearing allegiance to two competing ways of thinking and living– it would be like one attempting to be a vegan who owned a butcher shop; they’re not just different ways of living, they’re opposites. In the same way, pledging our allegiance to an entity who tortures enemies on our behalf while also claiming to follow the one who taught enemy love is not just different, but opposite.
My prayer for Christians in America is that we would be people who are radical, subversive culture changers– not people who throw our undying loyalty and complicity to culture. You see, this was always the invitation of Jesus– it was an invitation to live differently than the rest of the world. To be in it, but not of it. To be salt and light, a city on a hill, and people who point the rest of culture to his alternative way of living.
The way of Jesus is different than anything culture teaches– regardless of the culture or nation one finds themselves in. It is the way of a radical, inexplicable love that is found no where else– and we should be the people who give the whole of our allegiance to this different way of living and interacting with the rest of the world.
Personally, I can think of no more of a compelling reason to close the case on Christians reciting the pledge of allegiance: we can pledge our allegiance to Jesus and his way of enemy love (which he said was a requirement to become God’s children), or we can pledge our allegiance to the empire who tortures and kills its enemies (the opposite of what Christ tells us to do, thus being an “anti-Christ” nation). But, I don’t see how one could do both, as they are complete opposites. As much as I hate lines, I don’t see how this isn’t one: we can follow Jesus, or follow America, but we cannot follow both Jesus and America at the same time as they are busy doing opposite things.
The calling of a Christ-follower is so all-encompassing, so overwhelming (in a good way) that there’s just no room or time left for competing allegiances. Certainly, there’s no room for us to give our allegiance to an entity who engages in horrific torture– because that stands in opposition to everything Jesus taught.
If you’re a Christian who still covers their heart and pledges their allegiance “to the nation for which it stands,” please read the torture report for yourself. As you read it, I pray that you’ll ask yourself where you are placing your allegiance: is it in the radically different way of Jesus, or is it in the American way?
Unfortunately, they’re not the same– so you’ve gotta pick one of the two.