Who are you pledging allegiance to?

No King But Christ.

Over the last few years, I have become increasingly less confident in America (and most non third world countries) as any kind of formidable place for God to co-exist. Many want to “bring back” the notion of God into our country and schools but it is no secret that we (those that hold to a no king but Christ perspective) don’t ever see that America was “God’s country” or having been founded with the notion that it might become that. It was simply founded as a free country and for that I am grateful; but it isn’t Israel, nor should it be viewed as an entity of Christ’s kingdom. My only reservation in this way of thinking is to the notion that I believe all things are being and going to be either reclaimed to this kingdom or simply annihilated (which by biblical definition means to mercifully put to a final rest.) make no mistake, the people in this “foreign” kingdom and all the others should be redeemed to Christ within “HIS KINGDOM,” but the nation itself is a “rival” to the Kingdom of God.

Recently I was doing some research for a potential Facebook marketing campaign for Covenant Theological Seminary (CTS) and came across this ad from Hillsdale Academy. As I have no issues with Hillsdale, and in fact, think the call to Christian Education is ESSENTIAL in Jesus’ Kingdom, the ad didn’t sit well with me. It shows an image of a small boy and girl with apprehensive looks on their face pledging allegiance while the ad asks if they will become good citizens. It didn’t sit well because I have 4 boys that we have home schooled in part, because of “allegiance” problems with our local (Christian) school. My point is why would we be training our children to be “allegiant” to a Rome like anti-god system of the world as Christians? Regardless, when we teach you can pledge loyalty to kingdoms today it severely muddies the waters of teaching what it means to truly be an undivided fully obedient disciple of Christ. Why as Christians are we trying to serve two masters?

As I continued to raise my eyebrow at this ad it opened some dialogue between myself and Matt Mouzakis from X44 (who by this time is helping me write the article) and we started getting deeper into framing the everyday issues with Christian’s approach to this kind of nationalism. You might be surprised to learn that the “Bellamy salute is a palm-out salute created by James B. Upham as the gesture that was to accompany the American Pledge of Allegiance, which had been written by Francis Bellamy. It was also known as the “flag salute” during the period when it was used with the Pledge of Allegiance. Bellamy promoted the salute and it came to be associated with his name. Both the Pledge and its salute originated in 1892. Later, during the 1920s and 1930s, Italian fascists and Nazi Germans adopted a salute which was very similar, attributed to the Roman salute, a gesture that was popularly believed to have been used in ancient Rome.[1] This resulted in controversy over the use of the Bellamy salute in the United States. It was officially replaced by the hand-over-heart salute when Congress amended the Flag Code on December 22, 1942.”(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bellamy_salute)

The US switched from a “Heil Hitler” style Bellamy salute and Congress amended this “code” on December 22, 1942, when it passed Public Law 77-829, stating among other changes, that the pledge “be rendered by standing with the right hand over the heart.”[2]

As you can see, I carefully alluded to above, our flag salute was borrowed from Rome. It is exactly what the Bible was referring to as not taking two masters. In other words, this isn’t a maybe or might have been, our salute comes precisely from Rome and is EXACTLY what the Bible is talking about when it is challenging us to be “ALL IN” in our devout allegiance to Christ and not the systems and kingdoms of this world.

“Our identity is SOLELY with the King of the universe, not with any country or nationality or political party. When we are re-born into this new life, we are transferred into a new kingdom with a new citizenship.”

Dr. Will Ryan – This is the Way part III (2023)

The elephant in the room in this conversation is Paul’s citizenship. Not everyone in the ancient world had citizenship. It could be acquired through purchase or through birth. We need to ask what Paul made of it and how he viewed it because it is important to this conversation. Paul’s citizenship comes up in 3 instances in Acts: Acts 16:37-38, 22:25-28, and Acts 25. 

In Acts 16 Paul has been beaten and imprisoned and when it looks like something worse may be happening he pulls his Roman citizen card to escape. The privileges enjoyed by full citizens were wide-ranging: They could vote in assemblies and elections; own property; get married legally; have their children inherit property; stand for election and access public office; participate in priesthoods; and enlist in the legion, on top of that, according to Julian Law, a citizen could not be beaten without a trial. Why didn’t Paul pull the citizen card to avoid being beaten by the crowd earlier? The text shows the jailer’s family coming to Jesus, Paul seemed to elevate Kingdom priorities over citizenship and “rights”. It almost seemed like he didn’t want to mention it except to use it to continue his mission from Jesus. 

In Acts 22 we see Paul pull the citizen card to avoid being beaten and we find out this was something Paul was born into not something he acquired or purchased.  Paul seemed to use his citizenship to avoid beatings and being killed but he never seemed to use it to lift up allegiance to the empire. Previously in Acts 17 we see Paul in Thessalonica and a riot breaks out for proclaiming Jesus is king (and Caesar is not). The mob is angry because “these men who have turned the world upside down, have come here also,… they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus “ (Acts 17:6b-7). When Paul writes to the Philippians he says they are “citizens of heaven”. This would be shocking to a Roman colony (Where many would have been granted citizenship as a Roman colony versus a Roman territory). Paul is undermining their Roman citizenship and saying that their true citizenship was elsewhere. The Church is a colony of heavenly citizens and not Roman citizens. In the time of Rome, you would have been considered to have renounce your pledge to Rome if you desired to make an obedient pledge of faith to Jesus. Although, it seems the thorn in Paul’s flesh was likely a person, it could have been his personal inability to give up his Roman citizenship seemingly coming off as double mindedness or even as hypocritical when compared to His teaching of obedience solely to Christ. Some also frame this issue as if he is not able to rid himself of it due his the role as a Jewish Shliach prior to his transformation.

In Acts 25 we see Paul using his Roman citizenship to appeal to Caesar. But this is weird because not all citizens could appeal to Caesar, but Paul as a Jewish Shliach (undercover cop before his transformation on the Damascus road) likely could. Again Paul uses his citizenship to undermine the empire and get an audience with Caesar. At the end of Acts 28 Paul is under house arrest and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom unhindered. Did you get that? Paul used his citizenship to usurp the Empire right under Caesar’s nose with the gospel of the kingdom. Paul never used his citizenship to further the Roman’s agenda but the Kingdom of God’s. Paul was still beaten and faced many hardships for the kingdom and didn’t seem to pull the citizen card as often as we might think (see 2 Cor 11- much of this would not have happened if the citizen card was pulled). 

Jesus Christ, therefore, is our absolute Lord, KING OF KINGS. We swear absolute allegiance to him and to no one and nothing else. All other commitments must be within that relationship, or they are opposed it. Jesus was clear that we shouldn’t be making oaths to the world.

“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)

Many Christians take this part of the Sermon on the mount to simply be about telling the truth. At surface level this is true, we are to be a people above reproach and full of integrity, but at a deeper level oaths get to the issue of allegiance. To take an oath is “a solemn promise”, likewise to make a pledge is “a solemn promise or oath of loyalty”. When we pledge allegiance or make and oath we are promising by an object (i.e flag) our loyalty to something (the Republic- our nation).

Jesus condemned taking an oath/pledge/promise using an object such as heaven (God’s location), God’s footstool (the temple), God’s City (Jerusalem as the seat of the Nation), or even by your head (God’s image) to make a promise or oath to something by your word. This is being connected to breaking covenant with God. This is why, right before this section on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about divorce- the breaking of covenant. He’s playing off this picture when it comes to oath taking, saying that it is adultery and a rejection of the commandments to have no gods before Him (or literally in His face) and idols (thing representing the rule or location of a god), and this is part of bearing God’s name in vain.  Deuteronomy 6:13 say that we should swear by Him alone- this is a connection to our covenant with God and nothing else. 

This section of the sermon on the mount, that many look at as the antithesis’ of the Law, are all about how to bear and represent God’s name. It is the fulfillment of the 1st and 2nd commandment: to have only one God (Yahweh) and to not make idols, and to not bear/use (carry) his name in vain. Our loyalty is to Yahweh alone.  The Prophets spoke of oaths in this way, 

Though you are a whore, Israel, let not Judah become guilty.  Do not come up to Gilgal, nor go up to Beyth Awen, nor swear an oath, saying, ‘As YHWH lives!’” Hosea 4:15

Reading the words of YHWH in the mouth of Hosea is shocking, to say the least.  Israel is a whore?! “Do not come up to Gilgal, nor go up to Beyth Awen, nor swear an oath”, this oath is also connected to making an oath to a location (like to America).  “As YHWH lives.”  It’s the equivalent of our modern “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”  Hosea’s prophetic judgment is this:  if the one who proclaims such an oath does not live according to God’s instructions, the oath is worthless!  

Calling on the name of the Lord to vouch for our testimony means absolutely nothing unless our actions are aligned with His instructions. Once more we see that saying something has little consequence unless it is backed with doing something. How many times have we sworn an oath that doesn’t match our behavior?  “Until death do us part.”  What does such a promise mean when half of the time it is broken?  

Likewise Amos 8:14 says, “As for those who swear by the guilt of Samaria, Who say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’ And, ‘As the way of Beersheba lives,’ They will fall and not rise again.”

Amos is speaking to God’s people and telling them that swearing by a nation who is separate from God results in destruction. Again, Amos links oaths and actions connected to God’s covenant. What about those who swear/pledge by America (and her guilt), what awaits them? This is why John says to the churches of Asia Minor in Revelation, who were entangled with Rome (Babylon), to “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues” (Rev 18:4).

Blasphemy is not cursing.  It is using God’s name to vouch for something that isn’t true no matter what the subject or the circumstances.  “Let your ‘Yes’ be “Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No,’” said our Messiah.  Jesus knew why, do we? Lying, bending the truth, and making false oaths of allegiance is breaking a covenant with God.  Lying is spoken adultery.  

When we say “one nation under God”, are we telling the truth? By the way, this line was added to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 and “In God we trust” was legislated to be added onto our money in 1955. Are we lying when making an oath to a nation and declaring that it is under God or is in a special covenant with God (despite what Kirk Cameron says)? The Kingdom of God is the only kingdom of God. The New Testament continually says that the Principalities and Powers control the nations and Satan is the “Ruler of this World” and the “Prince of the power of the Air (another way to say this world)”. Jesus was offered all the nations of the World if he would worship (pledge?) the Devil and Jesus doesn’t deny the Devil owned them. Yet, he refused to and said we should “worship the Lord and serve Him [God] only”. This should cause us to pause and think.

Oaths are loyal proclamations to keep your promise. As a Christian, when you pledge to America are you making a promise of allegiance that goes against your baptismal pledge to the Kingdom of God? When Paul says don’t be unequally yoked this implies something about partnerships and oaths or covenant agreement with the world. In an ancient biblical context an oath meant to mix blood with someone and literally a covenant was cut. Israel made covenants with the world and eventually was handed over to exile because of they put other Gods before Yahweh continually. The law commanded to “fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made”. Jesus, sets the record straight as we 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”!!!

This is why the Early Church, prior to Constantine and the entanglement of Christianity with the State, held a firm stance against oaths/pledges and flags. Tertullian (160-220 AD) summarized the thoughts of the early church saying this, “Shall we carry a flag? [NO] It is rival to Christ.” 

“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)

If you are giving your allegiance to your country or anyone else, you are slapping Jesus in the face.

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. Jesus also said ” My kingdom is not of this world”. Jesus has a kingdom, and I can’t be loyal to two kingdoms at once. It would be impossible to be loyal to the USA and NAZI GERMANY during WWII 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? (This is a modified quote from Matt Young)

Some would say that in the same way we can have a covenant under God and a covenant relationship with our wives we can have a covenant relationship with God and our country. The problem is that marriage is a Biblical covenant imitated under the covenant of God. It is part of that Kingdom and should rightly align with all of the pledges and ideals of that covenant. You can’t simply bring in another covenant of oaths and allegiance under God’s covenant that is un-arguably ANTI-GOD or what His covenant is about. That is the definition of idolatry. It is taught from Old to New Testaments throughout the pages of the Bible as CONTRARY to what God wants and Jesus so clearly re-affirms.

How is it that Christians have become so blinded to this? How have we let the idea of Nationalism slip in and defile this covenant? I don’t think Jesus is smiling when you raise a hand in the air or over your heart to pledge your allegiance to anyone or anything other than him; especially when the entity you are embracing is so unabashedly “RIVAL” or against Him and His kingdom.

  1. Winkler, Martin M. (2009). The Roman Salute: Cinema, History, Ideology. Ohio State University Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-8142-0864-9.
  2.  Ellis, Richard (2005). To the Flag: The Unlikely History of the Pledge of Allegiance (illustrated ed.). University Press of Kansas. pp. 116–118.

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