Well, yesterday was another Fourth of July celebration here in the U.S. And tomorrow there will also be lots of patriotic talk in many churches across the land.
By the end of the day on Sunday, many people in the country will have pledged allegiance to the U.S. flag over the three-day weekend.
But that will not be the case for the people at Rainbow Mennonite Church (RMC), at least on Sunday —or for the people in most Mennonite churches across the nation, I assume.
Like the Quakers and other smaller Anabaptists groups, such as the Church of the Brethren, Mennonites are not big on pledges of allegiance.
The sermon at RMC will not be a particularly patriotic one either. I should know, for I am the one who will be preaching.
Our pastor and several others from the congregation will be in Waxahachie, Texas, for the Mennonite USA Western District Conference Annual Assembly. So I will be preaching in place of Pastor Ruth.
The Anabaptists from their beginning in the sixteenth century have generally been opposed to taking oaths. And a pledge of allegiance has often been considered a type of oath.
It was/is different among Southern Baptists. I know because I was a SB church member for twenty years, and also a (part time) SB pastor for eight years, before going to Japan in 1966.
During those years I was involved, in one way or another, in Vacation Bible School activities almost every summer.
It may have been different in other denominations, but in SB churches the daily VBS program started with a procession. All the children and teachers marched into the church auditorium following three older children bearing the American flag, the Christian flag, and the Bible.
And then the pledge of allegiance was said—to the American flag, to the Christian flag, and to the Bible, always in that order. Following that, the American flag was placed in front of the church—always on its right, the place of honor, as stipulated by the flag code.
Perhaps there was little problem with pledging the Christian flag—other than it taking second place to the American flag. Of course, there is a problem when the pledge to one flag conflicts with the pledge to the other.
Back in 2004, two Mennonite college professors penned a “Christian Pledge of Allegiance.” From the beginning of the Iraq War the year before, there were reports of children and youth in public schools being pressured to participate in saying the pledge of allegiance to the American flag.
June Alliman Yoder and Nelson Kraybill thought it was important for Christians of all ages to have an alternative statement that expressed allegiance to Jesus Christ. Here is what they came up with:
I pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ,and to God’s kingdom for which he died—one Spirit-led people the world over,indivisible, with love and justice for all.
I had not seen this pledge until a couple of weeks ago, but I like it.
Personally, I haven’t said the pledge of allegiance to the American flag for years. As a Christian I give my allegiance to Jesus, who said that no one can serve two masters (see Matthew 6:24).
But I am convinced that such a stance is not anti-patriotic. In fact, pledging allegiance to Jesus and following his teaching should do more to help the people of the country, and the world, than repeating the words of a pledge.
That’s how I see it. What about you?