Patriotism, Pledges and Partisan fervor. Part 2, Calorius reflects further
I think best in compartments, so I want to consider two separate things here.
The first is Allegiance. Even within allegiance there are several aspects. I owe all of my moral allegiance to God. Where morality is concerned, we don't have a choice but to do what God instructs. But there is also a civic allegiance- a certain responsibility to pay taxes, take jury duty, not dodge the draft if it existed, vote, complete national service, attend medical staff meetings, etc, etc. While the Bible encourages us to "render unto Caesar" these things, I don't think they are as binding as the moral code we serve.
Another reason we should fulfill our civic duties is "so that we do not offend them" (Matt 17:24; re the two-drachma tax, which by the way, Jesus had argued was an unjust law). And I agree that if there is ever a conflict between these obligations, we should serve the moral code first. I think when it comes to allegiance (closely linked to responsibility) there is a whole hierarchy of these things. Children owe a certain allegiance to their parents, husbands to their wives, wives to their husbands, etc.
And in so far as a pledge of allegiance is only stating these things, I find no problem with it. I remember the same thing came up in Ghana seventies when the pledge was introduced by the government. Jehovah's witnesses, who believe it is idolatry to sing the national anthem etc, refused. A good government will allow you to object in a civil manner, but sometimes a person can end up in prison for this kind of objection. Allegiance can therefore be compartmentalized, “hierarchized” etc and most things can live with others.
But there is a second major thing that often gets confused with allegiance but is actually distinct, and that is WORSHIP. Worship is the conscious or unconscious attribution of God's "Godness" to something. When it comes to worship, there can be no compartments and no hierarchy. The reason is that God directs that our worship of Him must be exclusive. So that commandment has two parts- a "do" and a "don't". The do part is to worship God above everything else. But the don't part is equally important, which is “don't worship any other thing”. Not money, not people, not governments, not religions, not philosophies, not parents and especially not inanimate objects. No compartments or hierarchies here.
During the temptation of Jesus he didn't make a counter-offer to Satan about the kingdoms of the earth and their glory. It's zero tolerance here. In my mind it's the difference between singing our High School song "we are brothers and our mother is our school" versus that other song to a school god "Glorious Kuzuinik...", the words of which I am glad to have forgotten.
In the Bible translations many words are used for emphasis various aspects of this worship, which cannot be shared. For example the word "love", as in "thou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart...” which emphasizes the aspect of devotion. And the word "serve" as in "and Him only shall thou serve" which emphasizes the aspect of obedience and commitment.
There are other differences between "allegiance" and "worship". For example, allegiance can be entirely outward. It's a form of obedience that has nothing to do with what you think and feel on the inside. I did National Service, but very reluctantly and angrily. You can't worship reluctantly, because it's an inside thing. So when we pledge allegiance to a flag, we are stating our willingness to obey the civic duties that it represents, and we should not be thinking devotion to the flag. This is where much of American Evangelical political thought has got it wrong.
I think contemporary usage of the word "worship", as in the thing we do for 15 minutes at the beginning of church service, or the hundreds of Christian CD's which are titled "Praise and Worship", has limited us to a very minor aspect of that activity. It is interesting how that word crept into our vocabulary and now how we trivialize it. We need instead to remember the use of the word worship in the context in which Jonah said "I worship the Lord", as in a statement of who we serve. Like the word "Som" in the Twi language. Nowadays people simply ask "what is your faith" or "what is your denomination" or "what Church do you go to" or "are u a Christian" or "are you born again". The more important question is, "Whom do you worship?" The answer should be, as in the manner of Jonah, "I am a worshipper of God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ"
For the time is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. John Chapter 4, verse 23.
By the way, it's heating up around here. We've trapped our first scorpion of the year and recorded above 90 degrees already. And did any of you see the Suns -Mavericks game last week? Rematch on the 16th, in Phoenix! - Calorius