No, I Won't Pledge My Allegiance

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By Sarah Withrow King

Full disclosure: I'm starting to write this article with Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna' Take It" blaring through my earbuds. "We'll fight the powers that be" indeed.

I did not watch the inauguration of the 45th POTUS. But when I read a snippet of his address on an internet meme and felt dread wash over me, I thought I should read the full text. Because first-hand information is important, and internet memes aren't usually a good source of accurate information.

"You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before," I read. Is the "historic moment" Trump references here the astonishing reality of the other candidate winning vastly more votes than he did? Probably not. Also, the promise to "make America safe again" doesn't seem to apply to my friends whose parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents lived under the fear of white racial terror.

I digress.

"From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it's going to be America First."

I pause. This is problematic. America first? No. What about "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God"?

"At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other."

I feel the chill of fear.

"A total allegiance to the United States of America."

Jesus was clear: "One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, 'Of all the commandments, which is the most important?' 'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'is this: America First.'"

Oh, wait, no…that's not how it goes.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." – Mark 12:28-31

In Jesus' name, I reject the heresy of total allegiance to any earthly kingdom. The United States of America is not my creator, not my savior, not my Lord.

I reject the heresy of total allegiance to any earthly kingdom. The United States of America is not my creator, not my savior, not my Lord.

"When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, 'How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.'"

I get angry, even though I can set aside the irritation stemming from the blatant pandering and the surely inevitable reality that someone on his writing staff Googled "Bible verses about unity" and dropped it in.

But. "When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice."

What?! First, Nazi Germany. But then, let us please consider that the POTUS is claiming that patriotism, the devoted love and support of a country, can take the place of repentance, lament, reconciliation, and redemption…actions that will actually crowd out prejudice, possible only through the redemptive work of Jesus. These United States aren't going to save us from anything. When you open your heart to JESUS, there is no room for prejudice.

"When America is united, America is totally unstoppable."

Is that our goal? To be unstoppable? I can't help but think of Jesus, sitting down and calling his disciples to him, saying, "Anyone who wants to be first should unite with other powerful people so they can be unstoppable." Shoot, no, that's not how it went.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all." He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them,"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me." – Mark 9:35-37

"We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God." anti-police attitude

Unless we disagree, speak out, protest. We won't be protected then. We will be ended. Protections are for those who toe the line, pledge allegiance, submit blindly to authority, no matter how corrupt. And what of our brothers and sisters around the globe? Are they somehow less Christian, less protected by God because of their national origin?

"A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions…whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag."

This is idolatry, pure and simple. Only idolatry could delude someone to believe that loving a nation, a flag, or a system of government could bring healing. The conflation of American nationalism with Christianity that has embedded itself in the social and political landscape must be resisted on all fronts.

The conflation of American nationalism with Christianity that has embedded itself in the social and political landscape must be resisted on all fronts.

I prefer what Paul wrote:

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority…He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it. Colossians 2:8-15

In other words: "You're so condescending / Your gall is never ending / We don't want nothin', not a thing from you / Your life is trite and jaded / Boring and confiscated / If that's your best, your best won't do….We're not gonna' take it anymore."

Sarah Withrow King is the Interim Director of the Sider Center, the co-director of CreatureKind, and the author of two books, Animals Are Not Ours (No Really, They're Not): An Evangelical Animal Liberation Theology (Cascade Books) and Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith (Zondervan).


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9 Responses

  1. Love love love this. Thank you for articulating what I've been struggling with.

  2. matthew bowles says:

    Yes, thank you!

  3. The Dad says:

    The Dad approves and is proud to know you.

  4. Tim says:

    Hello Sarah,
    What do you believe are our covenant responsibilities as Christians and as citizens of the United States?

  5. Michelle Thompson says:

    I just finished reading Ron Sider's book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and decided to check out ESA. Unfortunately, I realized right away by reading this article and the other one by Sue Gilmore, that this is a political site and not an evangelical site, in my opinion. Sadly, the message I took away in both of those articles is that if we voted for Trump that we were "Insane Christians" or somehow so misinformed. I was truly hoping this would be a website that focused only on how to help rid the world of hunger and poverty…and that Christians would be on equal footing here…and no politics would be involved. I would have much rather seen scripture on unity in the body of Christ and how we can serve each other and our brothers and sisters everywhere…even if we might not have the same political views. I am so tired of the political arrogance of both parties! Sarah King, you are right about one thing. We cannot wrap God in the American flag. We serve only one true King. We aren't going to get to Heaven one day and find out that God was a democrat or a republican or a whatever. I think He must be saddened when our personal agendas get in the way of what our true calling must always be…to know Him and make Him known. Sadly, I feel you forgot that when you wrote this article and made it political.
    I was hoping to give my support tonight, but feel I know longer can do that.
    You are stereo-typing people and putting them into one category when calling out one political view over another. You don't know why people vote for one candidate over another. There can be so many different reasons for this. I hope you can hear my heart in this.
    Your comment policy above states that …assume they are not idiots, not evil… but you made me feel that way through those two articles.
    I just needed to share my thoughts as well.
    A sister in Jesus…

  6. Michelle Thompson says:

    Sarah, I followed the link to Just Politics. In the About section it says it is practical, balanced and nonpartisan. However, when I read your article it seemed to be partisan. This is why I had to comment. I serve no earthly master as well as you. So, how can we be so divided in our political views? My point is this, Christian unity is much more important than politics. Our nation is divided and sadly this includes brothers and sisters in Christ. I can have a differing political view than you and still be someone who loves justice and mercy and equality. When you write an article like you did, then you have put Christians into camps…the left vs. the right…or maybe the right vs. the wrong. You don't know me and I don't know you, other than the fact that we are both Christians and therefore, sisters in Christ.
    I believe Christians spend way too much time judging each other and we wonder why the world isn't attracted to Christianity. When we daily deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him, then politics and judgment should cease to exist within us. I don't get to say that Christ agrees with me more than you or vice versa. He's the ultimate bi-partisan because He loves us all equally. I hope you can hear my heart in this. You and I may not agree on politics, but let's pray for our nation and our world that we will serve and love those less fortunate…and yes when we can act…we must act!

  7. Greg Fletcher says:

    I am glad you wrote this article, Sarah, as I have, as a Britisher, always been concerned about the American obsession with patriotism for that says one agrees with whatever the US Government says and does, whoever is in power. It is interesting that more seems to be made of the Amendments than the Constitution. Also, the Constitution did not take into account the impact on the Native Americans of the 'invasion' of the settlers.

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