Imagine a grade school student from China who goes to a public school and is asked to swear an oath to the Chinese state every day along with the rest of his or her class at school. Imagine that the young boy or girl refuses to participate due to the fact that he or she is a Christian and does not want to declare allegiance to anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ. How do you think the average American Christian would view this scenario? I imagine that the millions of Christians in America would not only admire the grade school student, but would probably use him or her as an example in Sunday School on how to take a stand as a Christian.
Now let's imagine another scenario. Imagine a young boy or girl in America attending one of the thousands of Christian schools throughout the nation. Imagine that a young boy or girl decides one day to politely decline in saying the pledge of allegiance along with his or her classmates. How do you think the average American evangelical Christian would view this scenario? Given the political firestorm over taking "under God" out of the pledge, I imagine that the reaction of the same millions of Christians who thought the Chinese boy or girl was a hero would be decisively different than the Christian child refusing to participate in the American pledge of allegiance. I further imagine that many would even question if the student was a Christian at all. After all, so the thinking goes, we are a Christian nation.
Does anyone else see a problem with this? To many American Christians, a child who pledges allegiance to China is considered idolatrous, but a child who pledges allegiance to America is considered a patriot. What does this say about how we American Christians view ourselves? For many Christians, the idea that America is not a Christian nation is considered near blasphemous. The same people that would applaud a Chinese or a Russian for refusing to swear an oath to a secular state see no problem with wrapping an American flag around a cross in the front yards of their churches.
For those who think that I am undermining the great American tradition of saying the pledge, relax. I am not saying that it is wrong to say the Pledge of Allegiance. The Bible says, "Give custom to whom custom is due." What I am questioning, however, is American Christians' association of following Jesus with patriotism. The truth is that America is a mixture of good and bad, just like many other nations. We can not claim a special relationship with God more than any other nation can. Given the numerous Scriptures that warn against oaths, it is hard for me to imagine how those who would ridicule a Christian for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance could legitimately call themselves Christians. Although I would never say that those of such persuasion should not be considered Christians, I will say that often we read the Bible with cultural blinders on. Many Christians from around the world that I talk to are baffled about American Christian's tendency to associate Christianity with the American flag.
Our first and foremost loyalty should be to Jesus Christ. Although we need to honor and serve our country as good citizens, to equate love for Jesus with love for country is nothing short of idolatry.