I have some questions concerning whether patriotism is permissible for a Christian. I would like to know your views on matters such as the pledge of allegiance and military service.
I am coming from a perspective taught to me by the Jehovah's Witnesses, whose beliefs I have studied for some time. I do not agree with all of their teachings, but I believe them to be right concerning reasons for not saying the pledge of allegiance and saluting the flag. As for military service, Jehovah's Witnesses are wholly against it for what appears to be good reasons on the surface, but I am not entirely sure whether they are correct. Your article "Should Christians serve in the military?" made a lot of sense. There were plenty of opportunities for Jesus to condemn soldiers, but he rather gave praise to them. Also, the fact that the apostles use soldiers as a metaphor for the Christian's battle against evil seems to support the idea that military service is not inherently wrong.
In Matthew 4:1-11 Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus did not question Satan's ability to give him all these kingdoms, or question Satan's positions as the ruler of the world. I think that this is how we know that Satan is the unseen ruler of the world. "The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one" (I John 5:19) The American Pledge of Allegiance includes the phrase, "One nation under God." However, America is becoming more and more secular and hardly seems to be under God when abortion and gay marriage is becoming permissible. Anyway, I don't believe Jesus would condone putting one nation's people above all other nations simply because you are a citizen of that nation. Isn't that the opposite of the selflessness and concern for all people despite race, ethnicity, or geographical boundaries that Christians are supposed to have? Therefore, to pledge one's allegiance to any nation (instead of to God), and especially to the flag of a nation (idolatry) seems far from proper Christian conduct.
The confusion for me arrives because I feel so certain that pledging allegiance to a nation is wrong and sinful. However, I am uncertain whether military service is wrong. In the military, you pledge yourself to obey the government unconditionally, which is a form of an allegiance owed only to God. Also, the Scriptures prove that the world governments are controlled by Satan, though they are "ordained" by God. Doesn't this mean we should respect them and obey their laws unless they come into conflict with God's laws, but not take part in the government ourselves? The other view I see though is that Jesus did not tell the soldiers to get out of the military but rather seemed pleased with their faith.
Please tell me your views concerning this.
The Christian's view is that there is a hierarchy of power that permeates all of life. "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God" (I Corinthians 11:3). Governments are not a source of power but derive their authority from God. "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves" (Romans 13:1-2). At the time Paul wrote this, the Roman Empire was in control. It was a government that sponsored a state religion based on idolatry. It was known for its cruel tactics. And in the not-so-distant future, it would be persecuting and killing Christians. Yet, God told Christians to subject themselves to the government.
"Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men -- as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king" (I Peter 2:11-17).
Christians are to conduct themselves honorably, knowing that their behavior is a reflection on God. Because of this Peter concludes that Christians are to submit to all levels of government for the Lord's sake.
A Christian, in a very real sense, holds dual citizenship. He is first and foremost a citizen of the kingdom of heaven and Jesus is his King. But while he is traveling in this foreign country (the world), he voluntarily submits to the rules of the country he currently lives in. There are limits to how far he will go. "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law" (I Corinthians 9:19-21). God's laws always supersede man's laws. "But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men" " (Acts 5:29).
In regards to serving in government, see: May a Christian serve in government?
Allegiance is "loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior or of an individual to a group or cause." As we already noted, Christians are commanded to submit (be subordinate) to their government. Therefore a pledge of loyalty is merely a restatement of what a Christian is already supposed to do. The official pledge states: "I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all." The pledge itself includes the concept that this nation is secondary to God.
Being a citizen of one country does not imply that you think all other countries are inferior. You live in one and are to be submissive to the one in which you live, whichever that may be. Nor does it imply that you aren't concerned about people who live in other countries.
The flag is stated to be a representative or stand-in for the country -- the visible that is seen standing in for the invisible. Francis Bellamy, who wrote the original pledge, was clever in picking an inanimate object to represent the United State's government. We don't pledge loyalty to a person or group because people can become corrupt.
Though the flag is addressed as a representative of the government, this isn't idolatry. The flag is not seen as a god or a representation of a god. No worship, no requests, or any plea is being made.
In the military oaths of enlistment, it says "I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." Notice that there is no unconditional obedience being sworn. The oath is to the law of the land and to obey orders of those in authority when they are according to regulations.