Taking the Pledge

Anyone from across the pond will be fully familiar with the idea of a pledge of allegiance, an oath of agreement and support with the values of a country. In the States schoolchildren pledge allegiance ‘to the flag of the United States…’ Well, Lord Goldsmith, former UK attorney general and Tony Blair’s right hand man has suggested that such a thing might be a good idea for over here too.

Oh, this is wrong on so many levels…

Aside from the ridiculous notion that we should take pointers on what makes a citizen from America, who suggests that anyone would be more committed to the UK simply by saying a few words? The planned pledge will be in allegiance to the Queen. Now I have no problem with the Queen, I think she’s great and long may she continue to live happily in the house at the end of The Mall, but what about this countries long history of quiet republicanism? Isn’t that British? I mean, the vast majority of Labour MP’s are republicans for crying out loud!

OK, I’m going to leave the political rant there, because my main concern is actually a religious one. Pledges of allegiance, whatever their form and whoever or whatever they are to, are fundamentally un-Christian. To require schoolchildren to take an oath (something they can’t possibly fully understand) is to infringe their freedom of religion.

Christians call Jesus Lord. Now, that is a statement that doesn’t translate well into modern English, because the only people we call Lord now are ceremonial figures like Lord Goldsmith. Shane Claiborne has a better suggestion that helps us to understand the point. He says we should call Jesus President.

The declaration of Jesus as Lord (or as President) is a recognition of Him as the fundamental authority in our lives. It is to Him and Him alone that we ‘pledge our allegiance’. That declaration is fundamentally a political act, which is why the Romans killed so many Christians in the first 4 centuries: because the Christians were allied to a higher authority than Rome. They recognised Jesus over the Emperor.

I believe that Christians cannot pledge allegiance to a flag, or a Queen or a President, to a nation or a republic or a people group. Because Jesus Himself said that we cannot serve two masters.

That doesn’t mean we cannot serve peacefully under the authority of a state, or a citizens of a nation. But it does mean that we cannot take an oath to pledge allegiance to that nation, because our allegiance is elsewhere.

Throughout the last 2000 years Christians of many nationalities have had to take a stand for their beliefs over and above the politics and policies of their nation. Many, many have died because of that decision. Some of the worst excesses in Christian history, the stuff that has given us a bad name, has occurred when we have not been able to do that, when national interests, politics and ideologies have got in the way.

The Queen is great. Britain is great, and I am proud to be a citizen of this nation. But I am unable to pledge allegiance to either queen or country, because I am allied to ideals that go beyond such boundaries. And I believe that there are many, of my faith, of other faith and of none, that would be similarly unable.

Ditch the idea Gordo; its daft.

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