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Archive for the ‘Separation of church and state’ Category

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From The Whitest Kids U’Know, Season 5, Episode 7

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

Thank you very, very much for letting us little kids live here. It really, really was nice of you. You didn’t have to do it.

And, it’s really not creepy to have little, little kids mindlessly recite this anthem every day and pledge their life to a government before they’re old enough to really think about what they’re saying.

This is not a form of brain washing.
This is not a form of brain washing.
This is not a form of brain washing.

This is really the greatest country in the whole world. All the other countries suck. And, if this country ever goes to war as it often wants to do, I promise to help go and kill all the other countries’ kids.

God bless Johnson & Johnson.
God bless GE.
God bless Citigroup.

Amen.

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U.S. citizens generally receive citizenship in one of two ways. Most of them become citizens due to the circumstances surrounding their births. Many others, however, choose to become citizens. Even though they are not natural-born citizens, they have the same rights and responsibilities. They have been “naturalized.”

The naturalization process culminates with an oath of allegiance to the United States.1, 2 The contents of this oath describe the allegiance that governing authorities expect and enforce for all citizens. In sum: this allegiance is undivided and absolute.

U. S. Naturalization Oath

I hereby declare, on oath, that I 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; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

One affirms this undivided and absolute allegiance every time one recites, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands.”3

Natural-born citizens obviously have no say in becoming citizens. Nevertheless, governing authorities still expect and enforce a natural-born citizen’s allegiance to the U.S. On the other hand, one can decide whether or not to affirm that allegiance through reciting oaths like the Pledge of Allegiance. Is this a decision that should concern Christians?

The word “allegiance” is an apt synonym for faith or belief.4 Faith is not merely assent to something’s historicity, truthfulness, or relevance to oneself. Rather, faith is trust or loyalty that is inseparable from obedience to that in which people place their trust. To illustrate: You do not have faith in your physician merely by acknowledging his diagnosis’s truthfulness or relevance to your life. No, faith in your physician is measured by your obedience to the action which he or she prescribes for dealing with the diagnosis. In other words, you don’t believe (believe in) the physician, if you don’t take the prescription.

But, can a Christian pledge allegiance—choose to have faith in or believe in—more than one sovereign at a time? The Bible’s answer to that question appears to be “No.”

King Jesus inaugurated a kingdom of peace and reconciliation during his earthly ministry.5 Christians are people who have chosen to be citizens of this heavenly kingdom or holy nation. They continually affirm this choice or pledge, by their allegiance—their lives of faith. The kind of allegiance King Jesus expects from the citizens of his kingdom is the same allegiance all rulers expect: undivided and absolute.

Examine some evidence. Undivided: “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). Absolute: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24, 25).

The Kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world are in competition with one another, each vying for every person’s absolute and exclusive allegiance. Who is winning this contest in your life? To which one—and remember, you can only choose one—of the two kingdoms do you pledge your allegiance?

1Oath: A solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says. A solemn attestation of the truth or inviolability of one’s words.

2Allegiance: The fidelity owed by a citizen to a government.

3Pledge: A binding promise to do or forbear.

4“Faith” and “belief” both translate the same word—pistis—from the Greek language in which the New Testament was written.

5King Jesus is an accurate way to understand the common title “Christ Jesus.” “Christ” (a Greek word, from the language of the New Testament) translates “Messiah” (a Hebrew word, from the language of the Old Testament). Both words mean “anointed one.” “Anointed one” is another way of saying “chosen king,” since a man’s selection as king was confirmed by anointing his head with oil.

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A Christian Pledge of Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ,
And to God’s kingdom for which he died—
One Spirit-led people the world over, indivisible,
With love and justice for all.

—June Alliman Yoder and J. Nelson Kraybill, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary

Mennonites believe that the church is “God’s holy nation,” called to give full allegiance to Christ, its head, and to witness to all nations about God’s saving love.  We believe that the church is the spiritual, social, and political body that gives its allegiance to God alone.

We also believe that the governing bodies of the world have been instituted by God for maintaining order in society.  These government bodies are called to act justly and provide order.  Mennonites believe that we are to respect persons in authority.

In giving allegiance to God alone, many Mennonites have a problem pledging allegiance to the US flag.  Mennonites are to respect government authorities, but we do not pledge allegiance to anyone but God.

—Taken from the Third Way Café

Read the article, “The American Flag: Pledge of Allegiance,” here. The author challenges the reader to evaluate the recital of the pledge, particularly in light of the phrase, “under God,” which was added to the pledge in 1954, 62 years after its creation. The author also briefly traces the history of Christian refusal to recite a pledge to any ruler, nation, or to any symbol of the same, including the moving story of a Christian, Marcellus, who was killed on Oct. 30, 298, on account of his refusal to pledge allegiance to the emperor and the empire.

No one can serve two masters;
For a slave will either hate the one and love the other,
Or be devoted to the one and despise the other.

—Jesus of Nazareth, the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:24


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READ THIS:1

  • Pledge (n): a binding promise or agreement to do or forbear. Pledge (vt): to promise the performance of by a pledge. Synonym: commit.
  • Allegiance: devotion or loyalty to a person, group, or cause. Synonyms: faith, fidelity, commitment. Faith: allegiance to duty or a person: loyalty. Belief and trust in and loyalty to God.
  • Anthem:  a song or hymn of praise or gladness.
  • Vote:  a usually formal expression of opinion or will in response to a proposed decision; especially: one given as an indication of approval or disapproval of a proposal, motion, or candidate for office. Approve:  to give formal or official sanction to. Synonym: endorse
  • Indoctrinate:  to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle
  • Imbue: to cause (someone or something) to be deeply affected by a feeling or to have a certain quality. Synonym: inculcate.
  • Inculcate:  to teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions

PICTURE THIS:

  • Millions of children every day, before the commencement of their school work, hand over heart, making a binding promise of trust and loyalty to a worldly political entity.
  • Millions of people every week, before the commencement every athletic contest, singing a hymn of praise to a worldly political entity.
  • Millions of people, the first Tuesday after the first Monday every even-numbered year, endorsing rulers of a worldly political entity.

CONSIDER THIS:

  • From Jesus of Nazareth:2

Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. My kingdom is not of this world. Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

  • From the first-century missionary, Paul of Tarsus:3

Our citizenship is in heaven. God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.

1Source for all definitions: Merriam-Webster, publisher of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary—America’s best-selling desk dictionary—and Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged.  Merriam-Webster is the direct lexicographical heir of Noah Webster, owning the rights to Webster’s magnum opus, An American Dictionary of the English Language, Corrected and Enlarged, including the rights to create revised editions of the work.

2The contents of this paragraph are taken from the Holy Bible, New Testament (NIV) at Matthew 4:10; 6:24; John 18:36; and Matthew 7:22.

3The contents of this paragraph are taken from the Holy Bible, New Testament (NIV) at Phil 3:20 and Col 1:13.

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Bainton, Roland H. Christian Attitudes toward War and Peace: A Historical Survey and Critical Re-evaluation. Nashville: Abingdon, 1960. [The standard book on the subject]

Yoder, John Howard. Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution. Edited by Theodore J. Koontz and Andy Alexis-Baker. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2008. [Overlaps with and expands on Bainton]

Yoder, John Howard, with Joan Baez et al. What Would You Do? A Serious Answer to a Standard Question. Expanded ed. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1992. [Addresses the following question and those similar to it: “What would you do if a criminal pulled a gun and threatened to kill your wife?”]

Yoder, Nathan E., and Carol A. Scheppard, eds. Exiles in the Empire: Believers Church Perspectives on Politics. Studies in the Believers Church Tradition, 5. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press, 2006. [Addresses the arguably apparent paradox of “being committed to proclaiming and living the gospel authentically, while also being citizens in an imperial superpower.” (taken from the back cover of the book)]

Lewis, Ted, ed. Electing Not to Vote: Christian Reflections on Reasons for Not Voting. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2008. [The title is self-explanatory.]

“Polls Apart: Why Believers Might Conscientiously Abstain from Voting,” by John D. Roth appears in both of the last two books (Exiles, 243 – 51; Electing, 1 – 9). A draft of this essay also may be found here.

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