Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    The Pledge of Allegiance and Youth Ministry

    The other day, I had the opportunity to participate in an Eagle Scout Ceremony for one of my youth. This was a joyous celebration and an affirmation of all of the hard work and service that it takes to earn an Eagle Scout. I was honored to play a small role in the ceremony.

    At the opening of the ceremony, the United States flag, and the Boy Scout flag, were brought into the sanctuary. Then, the pledge of allegiance was said. I couldn't help but think: What does this mean, theologically, that in the church we say a pledge to the flag. The denomination I service, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), has the unofficial motto: no creeds but Christ. Is saying the pledge of allegiance a creed or a confession? Is it appropriate to have the flag in the church? What is the relationship between the government and the church? How does this form our spirituality and the spirituality of our youth?

    I'm not sure about the answers to these questions. But, I feel convinced that I will likely face such questions again. What do you think? I look forward to reading your responses.



    Anonymous said...

    I feel the same way. The church should be a place where your nationality means nothing; it's a place that represents the body of Christ that goes way beyond any man made borders. Saying the pledge in church just seems really off.

    In churches that I've gone to in the past, they have always had the children recite the pledge of allegiance to the American flag during VBS, right before saying the pledges to the Christian flag and the Bible. This used to bother me so much. Are we teaching the kids that patriotism is the same as commitment to Christ? Who started this tradition during VBS and why has no one stopped it?

    Marv Nelson said...


    I think the pledge of allegiance is no creed, simply a statement saying...this is my governing authority and I submit to it. Romans 13:1-7 talks about how we MUST submit to the authority God has given to be over us. Do we need to have flags in our church lobbies, or sanctuaries to do this? No. Do we need to say the pledge of allegiance at VBS, or before church? No. On the question is it wrong if a church chooses to do so? No...in fact that church would simply say we are honoring what God asks us to do in Romans 13 and we're testifying to it. Now if it becomes evident that we are holding to our country above Christ...yes we've crossed a line, we have sinned. However, saying the pledge of allegiance doesn't say: My country is equal to or above Christ, it is simply saying I honor my country. below is the NIV version of Romans 13:1-7
    " 1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."

    Matt said...

    From Stanley Hauerwas: "How many of you worship in a church with an American flag? I am sorry to tell you that your salvation is in doubt."

    Die2self said...

    Here is another question, which is something that bothers me, but maybe a little different. In the court of law or during the Inauguration they have people put their hand on a Bible and make an oath. Ummm I don't think it takes a scholar to understand James 5:12

    But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your "Yes" be "Yes," and [your] "No," "No," lest you fall into judgment.

    There are somethings were we say, dude you are reading into that too much, but this is not one of them. About the American flag, it is not a law that you have to say it, so I can't see how you would line that up with being obedient to Rom 13. If you are at VBS or in a school or any any setting while everyone is saying the pledge of allegiance you are not breaking any law by remaining silent. I personally don't pledge my allegiance to a country, because look at the history of all nations. We support all kinds of stuff that I disagree with as a nation. My home is temporary here on earth, so I pledge alegiance to my future home in heaven. Hear me out, I wouldn't want to live in any other country. I served in the AF for 8 years, so I am not anti-american. I do not agree with abortion, homosexuality, all the injustice of not only our country, but all countries... so what do I base that on?

    Heb 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them,[a] embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

    Barry K said...

    I'd say having a flag in church is wrong -- pledging allegiance to a flag in church is dead wrong. The body of Christ transcends national identity. More to the point, I see examples every day where nationalism trumps a truly Christian view of the world (i.e. "its ok to kill that person because they are from _____"; or "Why are we giving aid to ______, they aren't Americans.) The church should be a refuge from the artificial divisions in the culture that separates "us" from "the others".