taking the words of Jesus seriously

The Pledge of Allegiance was originally composed in 1892 by Francis Bellamy. Originally the Pledge was composed of these words:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Interestingly you don’t find the controversial phrase “under God“,or even “of the United States of America“. Both of these phrases were later additions to the Pledge, leading to the final version that we all know today:

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.”

So, enough about history. I’d like to propose that there are two primary reasons (if not more), why Christians/followers of Christ should NOT say the pledge. Before we get into those reasons I’d like to start with defining some of the key words in the pledge so we are all on the same page as to its meaning.

Related: Daring to Call it Idolatry, Nationalism in Worship – by Craig M. Watts

Pledge: To offer or guarantee by a solemn binding promise, similar to an oath.

Allegiance: [1] the loyalty of a citizen to his or her government or of a subject to his or her sovereign. [2] loyalty or devotion to some person, group, cause, or the like.

Flag:  A usually rectangular piece of fabric of distinctive design that is used as a symbol.(In this case, a symbol for the Republic of the United States of America)

From these definitions we can understand a couple of things. Making a pledge is basically the same thing as an oath. And, giving your allegiance to something or someone is basically committing your loyalty to that entity. Also, the flag stands for something more than itself. It stands for the country/government it belongs to. In short, to pledge your allegiance to the flag means that you are making an oath of loyalty to the country, the United States of America.

Now for the two reasons why I think Christians should NOT be making an oath of allegiance to the United States or any other earthly government.

#1 Jesus directly and without any qualifiers condemns making an oath to anything for any reason.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’  But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37)

The people in Jesus’ day had a practice of making oaths for almost anything. The practice of making oaths was to guarantee before men and God that the person making the oath would fulfill his obligation or carry out a promise. It was looked on as a criminal offense to break your oath. Thus, the Jews had been commanded to “fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made”. Jesus, however, changes things. Notice that he does not say, ” Do not swear an oath and then break it.” No, he says: “Do not swear an oath AT ALL”!!! He says that as people who follow God, less words, more often than not, is better than more. Simply say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, and do not swear an oath AT ALL!

#2 Jesus also teaches that men cannot serve two masters at the same time.

When teaching about worldly treasures, Jesus says we should be more concerned with the things of heaven and God’s kingdom than those of this world.

Also by Matt: For the American Part of Me…I Am Sorry (My Confession)

“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.” (Matthew 6:24)

We can’t give our loyalty to two masters and be pleasing to both. Whether the choice is between God and money, God and man, God and a government or nation, the choice is always the same, one or the other. It seems that Jesus is saying ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’. In light of this it just doesn’t seem possible to me to give my loyalty to God, and then try and give it to a government at the same time. Jesus also said ” My kingdom is not of this world”. Jesus has a kingdom, and just like an earthly kingdom , I can’t be loyal to two kingdoms at once. It would be impossible to be loyal to the USA and Iran at the same time! It’s the same with being part of the kingdom of God. Jesus calls us to be loyal to his kingdom, and if we have given our loyalty to God’s kingdom, how then can we try and give it to America or any other worldly kingdom?

To sum up: Pledging allegiance to the flag equates to making an oath of loyalty to an earthly kingdom. Both acts are condemned by Jesus. I’m ready to stop pledging loyalty to the United States or any other kingdom other than the kingdom of heaven. How about you?


Matt Young is a U.S. Soldier turned pacifist. An Anabaptist, non-violent, lover of God and people, Matt is a follower of Jesus Christ. He is married to his beautiful wife, best friend, and mother of their newborn son, praying that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven”. You can contact and follow him on Twitter and on his blog, The Rejected Path.

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