Friday, July 4, 2008

Just Words?

I apologize for posting out of turn - I wrote this Wednesday but have not been online to get it posted...

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I want to take a few minutes today to discuss these simple sentences, and more over the words contained in them. No doubt most American readers have repeated this pledge at one point or another. In fact I expect that most of you have memorized these sentences. There may be some of our younger readers that have not memorized the pledge ore worse yet, there may be some that have never heard it. That said, the more common deficiency in today’s culture is the lack of respect, understanding, and gravity with which this pledge is often offered. I want to take a few minutes here and break this pledge into its component parts – its words. I hope that the reader will take a minute to think carefully about what is being said here, and to consider this a serious oath the next time they have an opportunity to repeat the words.

  • “I” – Yep – this is personal. YOU are making a pledge.
  • “Pledge” – To promise, to avow, to commit.
  • “Allegiance” – To be an ally of, to show loyalty, perhaps service, protection towards that person or thing.

Let’s pause here for a second – the first three words are critical here. “I pledge allegiance” means something. They mean that the person speaking is making a promise to be loyal, to serve, to protect, that thing or person. This is not a trivial thing. But do we say it casually?

  • “(to the) Flag (of the)” – A banner that is the symbol or standard of our nation
    “United States of America” – the nation in which we live
  • “(and to the) Republic (for which it stands)” – a republic is a particular form of government in which the people elect representatives to lead in their best interest. The United States of America is a democratic republic. While a republic is certainly a democratic form of government, it is important to distinguish it from a pure “majority rule” type of democracy. The masses elect (hopefully) wise leaders who then govern – some time making decisions that are not fully supported by the majority of the populous.
  • “one nation” – While the United States of America is made up of fifty states, we are indeed one nation.

I think that this is a good place for another pause. We have established that in the first three word the speaker (you… or me…) is pledging their allegiance. Now the object of that pledge comes into focus. I think that it is somewhat unfortunate that the object in the first position in this pledge is the flag – because I believe that the second object is the true focus of our allegiance. We are pledging allegiance to the flag as a symbolic reference to our allegiance to our nation, our republic. We are promising to be loyal to our nation, to serve it, to protect it, to act in its best interest. Additionally, we are calling out that no mater what state we are from we are part of one nation.

Now – Here is the kicker…

  • “under God” – We are asserting here our recognition that we are a nation that is founded operates under the will of God.
  • “with liberty and justice for all.” – we are asserting the assumption that as a nation founded “under God” we are committed to the idea that we must assure liberty and justice – that these are core principles of our national identity.

How many times have you given this pledge? The last time you said these words did you think about the true meaning – or did you just say them with the crowd? Were you challenged by the reality of the condition of our nation? Did you ask yourself how a nation founded under God, with a system of laws based almost completely on Judeo-Christian values could operate in a manner so radically inconsistent with these values? If did not grapple with these things I would suggest that you should have. If you DID think about them – did you also think about the fact that you were making a pledge? Did seriously commit to your allegiance to your nation or were these “just words” to you? If you did not make that commitment I’d challenge you to considering forgoing the pledge next time you are in a group that is giving it – or better yet, to commit yourself to honoring the pledge. If you truly make this commitment, and you are a Christian, here is one more incentive to ensure that all you do, in all facets of your life, is consciously aligned to God’s word and will.

Happy Independence Day!

1 comment:

Kyle said...

If I am to hold to a christian worldview - I'm not sure I can in good conscience pledge allegiance to any earthly nation.

Although, I am certainly called to pledge my submission and duty in all things scripturally lawful to the magistrate I have been placed under.

But, I only pledge my ALLEGIANCE (a very different thing) to the kingdom of God. This allegiance will indeed make me a very dutiful and submissive citizen in the kingdom of man.

As christians, let us put down the pledge, and pick up the creed.