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Christians, the flag & idolatry? :: June 16, 2004: 09:22 AM

This week I, a Brit, walked in a U.S. Flag Day parade. My husband could still not fathom how it happened even as he took photographs (proof! who would have thought?!)

What I do not understand is why literalist Christians are so keen on the flag and the pledge of allegiance. As an outsider (though not a literalist by a long, long way) it just looks to me like the first commandment is getting the finger..."you shall have no other gods before me."

To pledge anything to something made by human hands, in this case a patterned piece of cloth, seems outrageous to me. How is this different from the golden calf?

Just how, exactly, is this not idolatry? What about making vows only to God?

When I arrived in the US I was impressed (whilst remaining stolidly non-patriotic myself) by the loyalty of Americans of so many different backgrounds and I suspect this largely because children, as soon as they go to school, have to recite the pledge and face the flag, hand on heart, every morning...the flag is a unifier. But I am glad I do not have to do it; and I am sorry for those of my American friends who have to say it and feel hypocritical or even sacriligious by so doing.

I am never the less really glad we do not do this. It seems we Europeans are not very patriotic - perhaps the results of two horrendous world wars that proved the harm patriotism can do to peoples and their lands. Nationalism has done great damage. I distrust all things that invoke nation and blind allegiance.

And how come I was marching in the parade - though I must tell you I did not wear a flag, carry a flag nor did our group recite the pledge at the reviewing stand: phew! - one of my church school teachers had made giant puppets on the theme:"One Body: Many Parts" (as in Corinthians) and needed help carrying them and I needed her husband to stay in church until the end of worship as he is the one and only bass in our choir. The deal was, if he can stay till the end then I would help carry the puppets.

The idea was neat though. We had a seven year old walking inside a giant nose - you can imagine the comments: "hey nose! Stop running!"...and then there were the picking ones...my colleague's wife sported giant lips. Teens in ears; giant eyes with working eyelids; hands and feet. At a whistle all came together to form a strange face-with-hands and feet.

More on the flag another day....

Comments

You wrote: "To pledge anything to something made by human hands, in this case a patterned piece of cloth, seems outrageous to me. How is this different from the golden calf? Just how, exactly, is this not idolatry? What about making vows only to God?"

It seems outrageous to me that people still continue to make pledges to imaginary gods. Pledging allegiance to a flag at least has some kind of symbolic meaning, speaking of a shared nationality, history and destiny. Pledging allegiance to a god is merely affirming that you're part of a collective delusion.

If you hoped to insult me with your comment Dan you will need to try a bit harder. I live with people who do not believe, came from people who did not believe. My comments are directed at those who who declare faith in God in very strong terms and yet also equate that faithfulness with a strong patriotism and a maudlin' sentimentality to the flag of the United States. For those outwith the world of faith the discussion is mute and sure! the Energizer Bunny is as valid for you as my God or their flag...

Posted by: Dan Brusca at August 29, 2004 05:21 PM

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