Colin Kaepernick’s decision to remain seated during the playing of the national anthem has generated a lot of noise. Seemingly carving the divide between Americans into an even larger chasm, people’s anger has consumed the controversy and shut down most attempts at actual dialogue. Within that cultural framework, I meekly submit that I do not pledge allegiance to the American flag because I am a Christian. I pray that instead of adding to the division, my reason(s) why I do not will encourage fellow Believers as well as prompt unbelievers to research what it means to be a Christian.
According to Merriam-Webster, in context of citizenship, pledging allegiance means “(1): the fidelity owed by a subject or citizen to a sovereign or government (2): the obligation of an alien to the government under which the alien resides.”
Regardless of what the State Department believes, my citizenship is actually written in a book in Heaven, signifying that I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I owe my fidelity to a sovereign King named Jesus. This is a reality that is often and unfortunately lost on many Christians who reside in America. Borrowing the parlance of Augustine, many Christians have conflated the City of Rome (America) with the City of God. Those Christians act as if their fidelity as citizens is to the United States of America. Worse, those Christians apparently believe that the concerns of the City of Rome (America) equal or even supersede the concerns of the City of God.
By definition, it’s impossible to owe fidelity to two potentially competing kingdoms. And let’s be honest, often, and increasingly so, the concerns of the United States government are at odds with the concerns of King Jesus. What happens to allegiance during those moments? From my perspective, Christian either have to compromise their allegiance to King Jesus or demonstrate that by “I pledge allegiance to the United Stated of America” they only meant some of the time, making their “pledge of allegiance” dishonest.
As far as the second part of Merriam-Webster’s definition, I’m certain that the U.S. government and I define “obligation” differently. As a citizen of the Kingdom of God, I have been placed in America by King Jesus to be one of his ambassadors. Serving my King well in that role does demand that I live and work in America in a worthy manner. That means, among other things, obeying the laws of the land and submitting to the governing authorities. That does not mean, however, blind submission or allegiance to the governing authorities, especially when they contradict the direct commands of King Jesus.
For example, beginning in October, Massachusetts will begin requiring churches to acknowledge transgenderism, including calling people by the gender that they choose to identify as and not by the biological sex that God created them. After October 1, churches in Massachusetts will have a decision to face: obey God or obey man. While the new Massachusetts law is not yet on the federal level, will Christians still be comfortable pledging allegiance if/when the federal government requires a similar obedience? To be honest, scrolling back through the annals of American history would uncover many instances where the U.S. government acted in direct opposition to God. Christians don’t have to wait until the future to be confronted with the question of whether or not pledging allegiance to the flag stands in direct contradiction with their allegiance to King Jesus.
This issue has been broached in my own house. A couple of years ago, while at Mount Vernon, my daughter asked me why I didn’t pledge allegiance to the flag. I explained my position, but told her that the decision to pledge allegiance or not was her decision to make and not mine. She pledges allegiance to the flag, and I don’t bring it up unless asked. I do continue to teach her what it means to follow Jesus, and pray that one day her life will be characterized by devotion to King Jesus regardless of whether or not she pledges allegiance to the flag.
Admittedly, this is an issue and decision that requires much prayer and thought. In full faith before God, I believe that my decision best reflects where my identity actually resides, but I gratefully serve and worship alongside brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with me. Hopefully, regardless of the differences of opinions about pledging allegiance, Christians who live in America place their full hope and faith in the Kingdom of God and not the United States of America.