“…choose this day whom you will serve . . . as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”- Joshua 24:15
In 1892, a Baptist preacher named Francis Bellamy penned and published the words of what was to be titled: “The Pledge of Allegiance of the United States” with the intent to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America, as well as teach and cultivate a sense of patriotism among school aged children around the grandeur of America’s history.
As the story is told, the original words: “I Pledge Allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” were to be stated in conjunction with a one-time American flag ceremony and flag salute. However, due to the popularity of the pledge and flag ceremony, the pledge was ultimately incorporated into Public Law, and has since become a ceremony practiced for generations to dedicate and inspire loyalty to the United States and our country’s prized exceptionalism.
However, irony abounds as the ceremony that was created to celebrate America’s “exceptionalism” is propped up by the reality of America’s checkered history. A history that encompasses all the tenets of genocide, murder, theft, and injustice inextricable from America’s “discovery.” Moreover, a history which American’s have, by and large, pledged their fidelity and obligation to revere for the benefits of citizenship and freedom that this nation proudly offers.
As a Baptist preacher, I am inspired to observe a pledge of allegiance myself. However, this pledge is a different pledge located in the annals of scripture.
This pledge was penned by the prophet Joshua in order to commemorate Israel’s own founding as well as generate a strong sense of national pride. However, this pledge was not written as a means to oblige the nation’s fidelity to a flag- an idol- nor the Republic for which it stands. Rather, this pledge was written to memorialize the God above heaven and earth Who saw the people’s oppression in Egypt, heard their cry, and Who sent a servant named Moses to break the yokes of their captivity in order to deliver them to a land of liberty and justice for all.
This pledge is a pledge to serve the Lord. A pledge to serve the Lord in sincerity and in truth. A pledge to have strict reverence to God alone against the worship of any false gods.
Moreover, this is a pledge to follow the totality of the commandments of God. A pledge to serve God with honesty and deep conviction; with genuineness and integrity. This is a pledge not to place any other gods before God, and to stand resolute when one’s allegiance to God is in conflict with serving the alien and false gods of the world. Thus, pledging allegiance to God means pledging allegiance to the ideals of justice and equality for all persons in agreement with the intrinsic value their life inherently demands.
Pledging allegiance to God does not mean stripping the advertising budget for health care so that people in need of coverage are left to suffer. Pledging allegiance to God does not mean starting wars in the false name of peace, democracy, and freedom!
Pledging allegiance to God does not mean rallying to elect an alleged child molester to the United States Senate in order to maintain dominion over our political institutions. Pledging allegiance to God does not mean passing a tax bill into law that fashions government in the interest of the wealthy!
But, pledging allegiance to God means creating a government that looks like God’s kingdom where nations and governments beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks, their guns into community centers, and billion-dollar war budgets into higher teacher pay and scholarships for education.
Pledging allegiance to God means that our reverence for God is evident when our nation’s policies and our politics ensure that those whom God came to minister- the elderly, the poor, the sick , the immigrant, the orphan, the incarcerated, the homeless, and the hungry are no longer trampled over under foot.
Sadly, our nation and our history has become an idol in their own right. They has been propped up by fairy tales of individualism and self sufficiency; traditions of racism, violence and greed. They have been shaped and molded into palatable, earthly images of an AR-15, a one-dollar bill, and the sign of the NRA. Moreover, our nation has become an idol evident in the way any dissent of the nation’s aptitude is met with vile rebuke and vehement disdain.
Thus, as Joshua declared to the Israelite people, we must decide where we will choose to pledge our allegiance. Will we pledge allegiance to an idol called Greed which preys on the weak and takes advantage of the poor? Will we pledge our allegiance to an idol called Capitalism which sells the needy for a profit and only secures prosperity for the rich? Will we will pledge our allegiance to an idol called Guns which provides a false sense of safety and a perverted sense of patriotism?
Or, will we pledge our allegiance to the One True God- the God of justice, the God of freedom, the God of mercy, and the God of peace?
As for me, I choose to pledge my allegiance to the Lord!