Idolatry and the Pledge of Allegiance

Against immoderate attachments.

Today (June 22) is the anniversary of Congress's adoption of the Pledge of Allegiance in 1942. 

Although I was born in the United States and have lived here all my adult life, I grew up in Canada and didn't have to say the Pledge daily. I don't know if I escaped a form of brainwashing, but as a younger adult I concluded that the Pledge is idolatry. 

According to Merriam-Webster, idolatry is:

  1. the worship of a physical object as a god

  2. immoderate attachment or devotion to something

I'm not sure if anyone really believes the U.S. flag has god-like physical power, but the rituals surrounding it (including the Pledge) and strict rules for its display and maintenance, suggest that it's magically imbued it with god-like spiritual power, as if anyone who "disrespects" it has offended the dead and is a terrible person. 

"But wait," you might protest, "It's not the actual flag we care so much about; we're not superstitious. It Is 'the Republic for which it stands: one nation, with liberty and justice for all.' We honor the flag as a symbol, and recite the Pledge as a way to honor our country."

In my view, however, that's still idolatry. Pledging allegiance to "the republic," creates an "immoderate attachment" to the country's government that sacrifices one's own conscience. We end up supporting, even cheering, activities that would be condemnable if done by private persons. Our neighbor's drug habit? Drugs are a "threat to our democracy" so we endorse police raids against peaceful people. A foreign nation is friendly with Russia? Its dictator, who posed no threat to us, is now a "threat to our democracy" and we arm rebels against him. 

In other words, "our democracy" is so sacred, it calls for human sacrifice. That's primitive. That's barbaric.

That's idolatrous. 

I've written that both societies and individual lives function best when Richard Maybury's Two Laws are observed:

  1. Do all you have agreed to do.

  2. Do not encroach on other persons or their property.

What do national governments, even the most democratic of republics, ask of you?

  1. Do things you didn't agree to do.

  2. Support laws, policies, and armed police and military forces that encroach on other persons and their property. 

Regardless of one's religious beliefs, condemnation of idolatry in the Bible is as valid as condemnations of stealing and murder. Nothing made by humans, no image, statue, flag, institution, organization, or government, can override individual conscience. To believe that they do is idolatry. 

Governments are here to serve us; we are not here to serve them.

James Leroy Wilson writes from Nebraska. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. If you enjoy his articles, subscribe and exchange value for value. You may contact James for your writing, editing, and research needs: Permission to reprint is granted with attribution.

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