Op-Ed by Jordan Henderson
A Facemask for the Christian Right – The Pledge of Allegiance
The pledge of allegiance is a similar ritual to Covid facemask wearing: it is a ritual of subservience to the state, and a ceremonial statement of belief and faith in the authorities. The pledge of allegiance is extremely common in the USA, especially in schools and at government and community meetings.
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,”
The reality of people across the USA pledging their allegiance to the flag of the US federal government while wearing a Covid facemask was my initial inspiration for the painting below. I then remembered where I first learned the pledge of allegiance as a child . . . in church.¹
It is not uncommon to see the flag of the U.S. federal government displayed in evangelical churches. Certain evangelical church youth programs regularly begin with all the children being led through the pledge of allegiance to the government’s flag.² In light of this it is no surprise to me, that when the government ordered churches to close their doors in compliance with the government’s decrees, many churches failed to protest against the state; most complied.
Christians were persecuted in ancient times for refusing to participate in the Roman Empire’s rituals to their gods, yet today many Christians see no conflict of interest in offering up their allegiance in idolatrous rituals to the flag of the U.S. Empire.
Do Americans really mean to commit themselves to obeying future government orders? If their government asks them to do something that they believe is morally wrong, are they going to do it? Hopefully not. If Americans have sense enough to refuse to follow orders that they as individuals deem to be wrongful orders; then why are they voluntarily pledging allegiance to their government?
Someone might reply.
“You see, I am pledging allegiance to my country only to the extent that what they ask me to do is good; if they ask me to do something reprehensible I won’t.”
They will do as they are ordered unless they disagree? If they reserve the right to veto their government’s demands, especially if they acknowledge the moral imperative to do so when those demands are immoral, then they are not swearing allegiance at all. That’s why the pledge of allegiance doesn’t end with the clause “Unless I disagree for ethical reasons.” That’s called an escape clause, and we might as well dispense with the Swearing Allegiance theater, if we add that kind of clause.
It is not only the mandate-welcoming/police-
“In the Name of Science” is now a better pretext than “In the Name of God,” but Christians are still important apologists for the powerful
Alongside my earlier paintings commemorating The Triumph and Victory of Science I included this quote from C.S Lewis:
“In every age the men who want us under their thumb, if they have any sense, will put forward the particular pretension which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent. They ‘cash in.’ It has been magic, it has been Christianity. Now it will certainly be science” – C.S. Lewis, 1958
Science has clearly superseded Christianity as the pretension of choice by which the powerful rationalize their rule. Yet Christianity still plays a major role, especially on the Right, in giving the illusion of legitimacy to the ruling powers. The Bible contains plenty of fuel for those who wish to extol obedience to authority (Here is a list).
However, just as science only supports the legitimacy of the state’s decrees if we allow the state to define what science is; Christianity only supports the legitimacy of the state if we allow the state’s junior accomplices and fellow promoters of earthly authority, the churches, to define what Christianity is.³ Christianity has been used to oppress, yet it has also been used to liberate. Corrupt politicians hide behind Jesus, yet Christian Anarchists who reject the legitimacy of state power have built on a foundation of Jesus’ core teachings.
Christianity played a historical role in undermining, and de-legitimizing, acts of humans exercising power over other humans; long before social justice warriors made Christianity into an all purpose scapegoat for social ills, popes issued Papal Bulls condemning slavery in no uncertain terms. Christians spearheaded abolitionist movements – from Saint Bathilde, and Saint Anskar in medieval Europe to the Quakers in 19th century America.⁴ And Christians refused to allow themselves to be enslaved by the state through military conscription: they denied the state the right to do that.
Christians today could be responsible, they could delegitimize authoritarianism, and they could undermine power structures, if we could pry the Christians out from their hiding place underneath the thumb of the churches and the boot of the state.
Closing Thoughts: On Oaths and Allegiances
“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, take no oath at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God, nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you take an oath by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. But make sure your statement is, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil origin.” – Matthew 5:33-37 – NASB
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” – Matthew 6:24 – NASB – Jesus of Nazareth – Roughly 5BC to 33AD
State Subversion of Christianity
“Constantine’s conversion did not mark the embrace by the Roman Empire of Jesus’ teaching, but the conversion of Christianity to the interests of the Empire.”- Christian Anarchism for Absolute Beginners an interview of Alexandre Christoyannopoulos conducted by Lars Schall.
Church Subversion of Divinity
“The Church sets itself up as the means by which divine authority is enacted in the world. If that divine authority was seen as arising from within each and every human being, the Church’s own role would be fatally undermined, along with the hierarchical structures of the wider social system of which it is part.” – Paul Cudenec, from his book ~ Forms of Freedom ~ Chapter 34
Note: It is a testament to the ability of churches to mislead their followers into subservience to human authorities, that the Bible itself in the book of Hebrews teaches that divine authority arises within each and every human being, yet the subservience teaching continues (emphasis mine);
“This is the covenant which I will make with them
After those days, declares the Lord:
I will put My laws upon their hearts,
And write them on their mind,”
Rejection of Allegiance to Governments
“Let a man but realize that the aim of his life is the fulfillment of God’s law, and that law will replace all other laws for him, and he will give it his sole allegiance, so that by that very allegiance every human law will lose all binding and controlling power in his eyes.
The Christian is independent of every human authority by the fact that he regards the divine law of love, implanted in the soul of every man, and brought before his consciousness by Christ, as the sole guide of his life and other men’s also . . .
. . . And therefore the Christian, who is subject only to the inner divine law, not only cannot carry out the enactments of the external law, when they are not in agreement with the divine law of love which he acknowledges (as is usually the case with state obligations), he cannot even recognize the duty of obedience to anyone or anything whatever, he cannot recognize the duty of what is called allegiance.
For a Christian the oath of allegiance to any government whatever ― the very act which is regarded as the foundation of the existence of a state ― is a direct renunciation of Christianity. For the man who promises unconditional obedience in the future to laws, made or to be made, by that very promise is in the most, positive manner renouncing Christianity, which means obeying in every circumstance of life only the divine law of love he recognizes within him.” ― Leo Tolstoy (1828 to 1910), from The Kingdom of God is Within You, Chapter 9.
Christian Acquiescence to Police State Measures
The following quotes are spoken by the fictional character Father Shostakovich, in John C.A Manley’s recent book ~ Much Ado About Corona: A Dystopian Love Story ~ Excerpts quoted here are from the church scenes in chapters 33, and 34.
“Before lockdown St. Jerome’s averaged about one hundred attendees every Sunday. But the church was built to hold five hundred. It’s amazing that the government felt the need to lock you all out, considering you were more or less social distancing already. We must wonder, what is the real motive behind Caesar telling Christians to keep their distance from each other.
Our Lord came to the temple and found that con artists, pretending to be merchants, had taken over. Did he stand passively by? No! He overturned the tables and grabbed hold of a whip of cords and drove the evil doers out.
Yet, today ,hardly anyone has put up a fight when corporately funded institutions like the WHO and the Bill and Melinda Gates of Hell Foundation have invaded not only our churches, but our schools, our parks, our places of business and even our homes. Families have been separated, grandparents sentenced to long term solitary confinement. Children denied learning, play and friendship. And now they ask us to practice voodoo—wearing masks to ward off the premier’s invisible enemy.
In the first century, Christians were persecuted by the Romans. Why? Not so much because they believed in Jesus; but because they would not offer sacrifices to Jupiter, Apollo and Vulcan. Rome feared that their gods would be angry. They saw Christians as a threat to the empire and everybody in it. And if we don’t stand now, then those who are not willing to mask their face, to isolate from others, to get injected with an experimental therapy—to appease Caesar’s fictitious god of COVID may be deemed a threat to society.”
Jordan Henderson is an artist from Washington State in the Northwest of the USA. He works in oil on canvas and charcoal on paper. A portfolio of his work can be viewed at either of his websites: Original Paintings – Fine Art Prints.
(1) I learned the pledge of allegiance in church during a Christian youth program called Awana (more on that in note footnote 2), and later during Boy Scouts, and tons of other community programs. It’s all melting together now so I don’t remember if the adults ever recited the pledge of allegiance in the church I attended outside the context of the youth program or not. But here are some other people’s interesting, and to their credit, critical, accounts of the pledge of allegiance in church during regular services; see Here and message boards Here and Here.
(2) The Christian youth program I have in mind that regularly begins or began with the pledge of allegiance to the US flag followed by some other pledges, is called Awana. It’s been years since I was in that program as a child, so I called up Awana and asked them if they still begin their programs with the pledge of allegiance. The very polite customer service representative evidently sensed a loaded question and diplomatically skirted the question altogether. As far as I can tell at least some churches still do begin their Awana youth programs with the pledge of allegiance, and I surmise that many do, because the Awana program guides that I was able to find for specific churches through a general internet search, mentioned beginning with the pledge of allegiance such as Here, and Here. See the following link for another type of church youth program (Vacation Bible School) having the children recite multiple pledges including to the US flag.
(3) The Bible does not define Christianity per se, because Christians decide what writings go into the Bible – this is the Question of Canon – and Christians themselves define how authoritative the Bible is or is not, such as accepting or rejecting The Doctrine of Inerrancy – and Christians decide which teachings to follow, which to ignore, and how to interpret them. For example; the practice of stoning to death people who have committed the grave sin of collecting firewood on the Sabbath is Biblical, but I’ve never heard anyone advocate reviving it! (see Numbers 15:32-36)
(4) Regarding Queen Bathilde and Saint Anskar – my reference is Rodney Stark’s book – For the Glory of God: How monotheism led to reformations, science, witch-hunts and the end of slavery – Chapter 4, subheading, Saints and Popes, page 329 – ISBN 0-691- 11436-6
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