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I Pledge Allegiance to the State?

Theologian Preston Sprinkle wrote a short blog the other day about why he stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Like Sprinkle relates in his own account, it’s probably fair to assume that most American Christians say the Pledge without reflecting on the theological implications. It never crosses most of our minds that being devoted to Jesus above all else means that a Christian can’t pledge true allegiance to any nation-state. Writes Sprinkle,

“We’re all citizens of another kingdom which is fundamentally at odds with other kingdoms seeking to rule the world, or part of it. We are outposts of heaven living as strangers and foreigners among the nations. And we need to be reminded of that identity every single day.

Christians are also to be subversive citizens, political prophets who boldly live out a narrative of weakness, suffering, sacrifice, and death. And this narrative subtlety dismantles all other narratives of citizenship and allegiance.”
(italics mine)

By “subversive,” Sprinkle certainly doesn’t mean to forcefully challenge or overthrow whatever state one happens to find himself under; anyone relatively familiar with Sprinkle’s work knows that he is opposed to violence. Christians, as followers of the Prince of Peace, should strive to avoid ever being seen as a violent threat to the state (John 18:36). Yet there is a sense in which the very proclamation of Jesus as Lord is an astonishingly subversive act. The biblical promise of a New Heaven and New Earth under God’s uncontested reign, and living out one’s Christian faith in light of the fact that all secular kingdoms are made obsolete by King Jesus, cannot be seen as anything less than a political challenge to the legitimacy of all earthly rulers. Our citizenship is with another realm, and our allegiance to another king (Philippians 3:20).

Sprinkle’s whole post is available here. I also strongly recommend his Theology in the Raw podcast, which is one of the few I listen to on a regular basis.

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