Now that the rah-rah of Memorial Day is over, I can confess. I no longer say the pledge of allegiance. You know, the first thing you ever memorized in grade school? The thing that everybody parrots at public gatherings? Yes, that pledge. It’s no longer in my repertoire.
“Ah, she must be some kind of anarchist,” you say. Not exactly. I believe that we do need government, albeit in a much more limited form than anyone would recognize these days.
“Then she’s one of those anti-war ex-hippies that run around burning flags while other people are fighting so she has that privilege.” Well, I am an ex-hippie. And it’s true I don’t think most wars accomplish much, except to line the pockets of the military-machine-makers and break a lot of maternal hearts. But I’ve never burned a flag and have no plans to do so.
No, this new position started last summer, not with politics, but in church. I was attending the official Explorer deal for the son of an old friend. As boy scout events inevitably do, they said the pledge. I said, “I pledge allegiance to the flag” before I stopped. In all my years, I had never realized I was making an oath to a piece of fabric. As this seemed like an extremely silly thing to do, I stopped doing it. Then over the next few weeks, as I am prone to do, I mulled it over, prayed, and asked God what He thought about it.
Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; and anything beyond these is of evil. (Matthew 5:33-37)
Hmmm, no oaths at all … that seems pretty clear, and right from Jesus, too. So I wondered, “Well, how would this work in real life?” Obviously, I couldn’t say “the pledge.” And I couldn’t hold public office … or be a police officer … or join the Moose club.
I don’t mind not being a cop or a Moosette, and truthfully, I had thought about the public office thing before. I did, after all, grow up in the civil disobedience era. In fact, many years ago I turned down a job as one of the first dispatcher’s with the state police, because I wouldn’t join the union. Now that was politics.
But if it came right down to a choice between obedience to Jesus, or obedience to the flag? Jesus wins, hands down, every time. So that’s why I can’t say the pledge.
But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)