In the comments section of the review I wrote yesterday for Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica, Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not: Evaluating Empire in New Testament Studies one commenter asked whether modern Christians should (A) pledge allegiance to the government under which they live or (B) do their best to be law abiding without going as far as pledging allegiance. This is an interesting question. Does pledging allegiance to the United States (or another nation) constitute something equivalent to being loyal to “God and Mammon,” something Jesus said is not possible, or (as I see it) can it be more akin to the words of the Prophet Jeremiah (29:7) who told exiles to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city” where they’d be taken, even commanding them to “pray for it?”
Personally, I suggested in response that a Christian pledging allegiance doesn’t have to mean absolute loyalty beyond one’s moral and religious convictions. Instead, I think it is possible to pledge allegiance meaning something like “I will do nothing to harm those neighbors with whom I share a government, an immediate economy, a overarching culture, land, and other possessions. I will do my best to live for the benefit of the city, state, and nation in which I live as long as this doesn’t contradict my allegiance to the Kingdom of God.” This allegiance can be multifaceted. One may oppose war or bad economic practices that lead our nation to harm other nations out of allegiance to one’s own nation. In other words, I don’t want to United States to invade Iran or bomb North Korea because I think it is bad for our people to have to be committed to those acts when there are other options. I may oppose my nation’s exploitive economic policies not out of disloyalty, but because I think our people will be grieved by their own evil over time and that if we harm others it will fracture potentially fruitful relationships with them in the future.
In other words, pledging allegiance doesn’t mean mindless subservience.
How would you respond to the question of whether or not pledging allegiance is compatible with Christianity’s confession that “‘Jesus is Lord’ to the glory of God the Father”?