South Dakota theologian Anna Madsen reports that when her daughter Else was seven, she refused to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Why? Because she believes in liberty, justice, and God:
...three years ago, on her own, when she was seven, Else (whose middle name, by the way, is my grandmother’s first) announced that she had decided to refuse to say the Pledge.
I was pretty sure that I saw my grandma’s glint in Else’s eyes.
“Why, baby girl?” I asked, trying badly to suppress my glee that already she was rabblerousing.
“Because there clearly isn’t justice and liberty for all. More than that, I don’t think it’s right to pledge allegiance to anything but God” [Anna Madsen, "Pledging Allegiance," OMG Center for Theological Conversation, 2014.01.30].
Madsen reminds us that the author of the Pledge was a Christian socialist selling flags and magazines. We like to cite that history as evidence of the flimsiness of the Pledge as a crucial thread in American patriotism... but maybe those crass capitalist origins say as much about America as the words themselves.
Madsen then emphasizes that pledging allegiance to a flag is not Christian:
...In God we Christian disciples trust (I can’t and shouldn’t speak for Americans as a whole).
That is our primary identity. As Christians we trust in God.
Not in America. Not in America above all other nations.
But in God the God of all creation, which includes, of course, all peoples.
No Others exist in the Christian community.
We are a people claimed by, formed by, defined by the risen Christ who came for all, and by the Jesus who fed, welcomed, healed, forgave, taught, visited, and who taught to give to the poor, to clothe the naked, and to turn the other cheek.
And Christians, by their very faith allegiance, not to mention their name (Christ-ians), become ambassadors, become disciples of this particular way of being in the world…a way that, while on occasion might gel with the nationalistic goals of the United States of America, may also, in fact, preclude them.
That’s nicely radical [Madsen, 2014.01.30].
Our mostly Christian legislators think that pasting God onto a patriotic exercise reinforces both Christianity and America. They are wrong on both counts.