On Pledging Allegiance
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15b).
“I, the undersigned, by my signature do certify, swear, and affirm: That I am a native born, or fully and legally naturalized citizen of the United States of America. That I owe no allegance [sic] to any other country or ruler other than the United States of America. . . . That I will pledge my allegance to the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan . . .” (Application for membership: American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan).
We’ve just come through the July 4th weekend, and it got me thinking. The United States is a nice enough place. There are a number of opportunities made available to us due to the simple reason that we happened to have been born on this soil, and for which we ought rightfully to give thanks. We take for granted many things that people in other parts of the world would die to have. But this great experiment in the ordering of public life we call “the United States” is not without its flaws; and these are significant. In fact some of these defects are so perplexing that, regardless of the political party in power, we have been unsuccessful in addressing them. There are some things that, despite our best efforts to date, defy our most capacious political efforts to remedy them. We live in a country, for example, that still commits violence in the name of peace and sees some children go to bed hungry, while others sleep with full bellies. We make our homes in a country in which healthcare is a commodity available not as a right but as a privilege, in which anyone who doesn’t claim to be heterosexual has to take a back seat on the cultural bus. We reside in a culture that accounts worth as principally tied to what one possesses, and love as an emotion of the heart, rather than a commitment of the will. In fact, regardless of the great work that has gone into addressing the problem of racism, there are still benighted individuals who believe that “separate” and “superior” are modifiers that ought rightfully be attached to human beings and their social arrangements.
Christians, on the other hand, are a people who envision another kingdom where our loyalties to another ruler compel us to tear down the walls that divide us from each other. We realize that short of the hand of God, some things are beyond our capacity to heal them on our own. If the church, the followers of the one who finally gave himself over to the hands of hate, cannot stand united against the many masks of hatred, there is no hope. If we cannot offer up to God our brokenness, including those who would seek to undo us, we are doomed already. Because—bad spelling, poor grammar and a complete misreading of what it means to be a child of God notwithstanding—the people who make up hate groups are also people for whom Jesus died; we must be in prayer even—perhaps most especially—for them.
We refuse to submit to the servants of the night. We pledge our allegiance to another ruler. “The kingdom of the world” belongs to him anyway—even though, apparently, some have failed to realize it.