Why on Earth would I want to do that?


I went to catechism class last night and met up with some old friends. I wasn’t in the best mood, but seeing them made my night.

Correction: It made my night after the first hour.

The first hour was spent in agony as I was subjected to the usual complaints about oppression by secular society of those who dare to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

When I mention that I don’t do that, I am often asked, “Why?”

In most Christian settings, it is uncommon for Christians to object to those things. The assumption is that you are a cowardly Christian who does not want to show his faith. Or that you are an oppressed, brainwashed Christian who needs to be rescued. Or that you are not Christian at all. You are a New Age spiritualist, an atheist, or some other anti-Christian boogeyman. How can I, someone who is none of these things, possibly side with the atheists? A word that, to them, is so filthy that they physically choke on it. I kid you not.

I could have gone the conventional route and politely explained that not everyone is Christian in America and our rituals should reflect our diversity. Instead, I took another approach.

My response: I should be asking you the same question. Pledge allegiance? Why? Why on Earth would I want to do that?

Here is a little bit of my background.

My maternal grandmother is 100% Lithuanian. My mother is half Lithuanian. She even used to be bilingual in Lithuanian and English. This, of course, makes me 1/4 Lithuanian. If my mother remembered the language, I would probably be bilingual in those languages too. Oh well. Never too late.:)

My Lithuanian ancestors fled their home country, like most people, because of the oppression they endured and the hope of a better life. During that time, Lithuanian national and cultural identity were violently oppressed by Czarist Russia, WWII, and the Soviet Union respectively. They endured forced conversions to Orthodox Christianity under the Czars and the suppression of faith in general under the Communists. This is a fresh memory for my ancestral homeland, especially since we only became independent as a nation in 1991. We have a truly breathtaking monument that documents our history of religious oppression known as the Hill of Crosses.

Sorry, but I object to conformity for the greater good. I’m sure many Russians thought they were, in their own twisted ways, saving the souls of Lithuanians by forcibly molding them into Orthodox Christians. I object to the idea that Lithuanians should have been forced to give up their identities for the sake of social stability as in the USSR.

I object to the idea of pledging allegiance to a government. It is one thing to be loyal to the best interests of your country. Preserving an identity and way of life that is under attack by a foreign power is loyalty. It is one thing to refrain from revealing information or participating in activities that endanger your country, i.e. treason. I’m not talking about that.

It is another thing entirely to pledge allegiance to symbols of the state or to a government, as in the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s idolatry, for one thing, and it’s just wrong. You don’t pledge allegiance to a government. Governments can and do have self-serving agendas and commit grave acts of evil to enforce them. Pledging allegiance to governments means, by definition, accepting and advocating the interests and actions of those governments. Governments don’t rise to power by themselves. Citizens have to consent to and promote its causes. What greater joy, what greater solace, can an evil government have than citizen lackies that will do anything for them-worship their symbols, fund their programs, fight in their wars, and die for them…for nothing.

All that is bad enough, no? Well, that’s not all

It is *yet another* thing to suggest that said state or government is blessed by God or somehow has God’s favor. How can any nation “under God” do wrong? If you oppose a nation under God, don’t you oppose God? Don’t you support evil? In the case of Communism, the gods in question were leaders like Stalin, various classes and Communist ideologies. Either way, they are blessed, all-powerful, evil, and can do no wrong.

Oh, and by the way, American Christians need to stop claiming that they are oppressed. My ancestors endured real oppression. They had to flee because of it. Don’t insult me with your claims that you are oppressed because other people don’t derive orgasmic joy from your nationalistic nursery rhymes.

I love this country. I do not engage in acts of treason or espionage. I contribute to it. I embrace its freedoms and its values, including *gasp* tolerance. I promote the common good of my people and promote American ideals in a positive, productive way. A good government can earn respect by communicating effectively and serving the common good. Any government that demands my groveling praises does not deserve my allegiance. As Mark Twain said, “Loyalty to my country? Always. Loyalty to my government? When it deserves it.”

Pledge allegiance to the flag? Why on Earth would I want to do that?

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3 comments

  1. Twistie · January 5, 2012

    Another thing to mention that might well make their heads do a full-on Exorcist twist: the Pledge was written by an atheist and originally did not include the words ‘under God’ at all. So the original intent was not to claim that all our government does is blessed by the angels or in any way connected to any form of god. In fact, it was meant (if memory serves) as a one-time recitation for school children at a single function in the late 19th century… and then people decided it would encourage children to be Good Citizens and added to the daily activities in classrooms across the country some twenty years or so later.

    In fact, the words ‘under God’ were added during the Red Scare after WWII when Senator Joe McCarthy was looking for a commie under every bed. The thought process behind it was pretty much the communist hunter’s version of the old witch hunter’s belief that a witch could not recite the Lord’s Prayer properly. A witch, you see, would say it all backwards. People assumed communists couldn’t possibly say the word ‘God’ without exploding or something inane like that.

    So in addition to all your other points, the addition of the words ‘under God’ to the pledge actually WAS one part of the heinous sorts of acts that you reject already.

    A friend of mine once told me how much she was oppressed being a Christian in America. I told her to try one day as an atheist here. After all, candidates for every office from Dog Catcher to President aren’t all racing to fit in as many atheist anti-prayer meetings as possible. They’re all going to prayer breakfasts and looking for support from churches.

    Many peoples in many places at many times have faced real religious persecution. People have been imprisoned, tortured, maimed, and killed for their choice of religion. It’s happening right now all over the world.

    Last time I checked, nobody was imprisoning or murdering Christians in this country lately. Having to face the fact that there are people who respectfully disagree with you isn’t oppression. It’s life.

    Me? I’m not oppressed. And I’m the actual minority. Mostly I’m forgotten. I do, however, appreciate it when people remember that my beliefs are different, but not a direct threat.

    So thanks for always treating those whose views differ as people, too.

  2. Elizabeth · January 6, 2012

    I was taught that when you pledge your allegiance to the flag, it is representing “The People” and means you are pledging yourself to your fellow Americans, not the government, quite specifically.

    This is what makes the United States, as well as the Pledge, unique in the world.

    • JoannaDW · January 6, 2012

      What does it mean to pledge allegiance to your fellow Americans? Lots of people seem to think you cannot truly be loyal to America without total devotion to its culture and government. Furthermore, members of government and government leaders are also fellow Americans. Should I pledge allegiance to them, regardless of their conduct?

      I do not oppose all patriotic rituals. Patriotic songs are fine. Holidays that honor our history and culture are fine. I hope you don’t think that I oppose all pride in our country because I don’t. “My Country ‘Tis of Thee?” Pretty song, patriotic, and NOT idolatrous. Seal of approval issued.

      Pledges to the state and references to its special favor with God are another thing entirely, especially when they are forced or coerced. This creates a mob mentality that I consider dangerous. Indeed, it strikes me as un-American to force or coerce people into ideals and rituals. Cultural pressure to participate in a ritual or be accused of treason is coercion in my book.

      “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.”

      Flag? Republic? Nation? Under God? How is this not state worship? The one references to the people I see is in the word all, and that is at the end. Specifically, the phrase is “for all.” What is doing to whom? The state is doing to the people. Liberty and justice? What do those words mean? Some people think liverty and justice as synonymous with conservative politics, and that to support them, you need to support foreign wars, state-sponsored religion, etc.

      I hate to sound like I’m splitting hairs, but words are important. Cultural context are important. And the words and the context of the Pledge of Allegiance are problematic. If it is just a feel-good chant, a group activity, and doesn’t mean anything, then why say it?

      And what about the religious issue? For some Christians, like myself, this is idolatry, which is not permissible. I love my country, but not more than my God.

      Yes, the Pledge may be unique, but does that make it good? Are there not many things that make the USA unique that are also positive? I say yes, absolutely.

      This is not an attack on your or those who like the Pledge. I don’t think you are part of some evil conspiracy to make us all wear chapel veils or bomb A-rabs. This post is an attack on the idea that the Pledge is sacrosanct or that the only people who oppose it are teh evil atheists.

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