Should Christians Pledge Allegiance to the Flag?
Since today (Saturday) is July 4th, I delayed posting my usual Q&A Friday until today (or, to put it more honestly, I totally forgot to post Q&A Friday and decided, retro-actively, to make up a July 4th oriented question to cover up my error!).
To many, this might seem like a ridiculous question.
To me, it's not.
Let me share a little story. Early in my pastoral ministry, I was passionate about politics. I listened to Rush Limbaugh in the car. I joined the conservative book club. I watched Hannity & Colmes almost every night. I debated political views on the internet and in my personal relationships. Political stuff got me fired up. I felt like if only the right politicians could get elected, there was hope for our nation... and the world.
I don't know exactly when or how it happened, but at some point about 10 years ago, I began to sense strong conviction from God about my level of allegiance to (and trust in) my earthly nation. If judged by how I spent my free time, one would have supposed patriotism outranked discipleship on my list of priorities. And, sadly, that might have been true.
Part of this conviction included a very specific call. I actually sensed that God wanted me to NOT pledge allegiance to our nation's flag for an entire year. I didn't tell anyone about this. It wasn't obvious. I didn't flaunt the fact that I was abstaining (probably nobody noticed).
But you know what? Over that year, my heart changed. I had been putting more faith in politicians than I did in the church to change the world. I began to see that I had been more passionate about my earthly nation than I was about the Kingdom of God.
(Speaking of the Kingdom of God, I am convinced that the reason so many American Christians border on idolizing their nation- or a particular political party within their nation- is because we've made the Gospel all about individual salvation rather than about the Kingdom. It is natural for humans to want to join some movement bigger than themselves. If Christianity only offers self-sized salvation, Christians will turn to some other movement to satisfy their natural hunger for more.)
When the year was over, I went back to pledging allegiance to the American flag whenever the opportunity arose. My mindset, however, was definitely transformed. I now knew this was only a secondary allegiance. My first and foremost allegiance was, of course, to God and the Kingdom of Heaven (where my true citizenship resides).
So on this July 4th, by all means celebrate your love for the country where God has placed you. But realize, Christian, that our love for God must always outrank our love for country. Our participation in the Kingdom of God must always be prioritized over our participation in worldly politics. The Spirit-filled church, not the Republicans or Democrats, is the hope of the world.
Worldly kingdoms (and democracies) fall, but the Kingdom of God endures forever.