I do not regularly recite the Pledge of Allegiance at church. I do not regularly recite the Pledge of Allegiance at home. I do not regularly recite the Pledge of Allegiance at my office. And we do not regularly recite the Pledge of Allegiance at Sequitur. Here's why:
We have limited time. At Sequitur our morning time together is called Promptus. It lasts fifteen minutes, and is a time of hearing Scripture publicly read, reciting the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed together, praying a scholar’s prayer, singing a hymn which aligns with the liturgical season, and then admin and teachers giving a few and simple school-wide announcements. We have limited time together in our morning Promptus, and we have limited time in our classes; if we use that time to recite something, it's going to be Scripture, a prayer, or a section from a classical text. If we recite something outside of that, then the question is asked, "What else should we be reciting and why? Why the Pledge of Allegiance, of all things? Do we know who wrote it? Why did they write it? Why don’t we recite that in church or in our businesses but it’s culturally expected in a school? Why don’t families recite it before dinner?" While classical education is thoughtful about these things, it’s also practical. We want to use our time wisely, to do the most good in the best ways, while we can.
We have limited and proportioned allegiances. Nearly every Christian school I’ve visited has some kind of distinctly Christian (not national or political) liturgy they do each week (e.g. chapel, prayer, singing). Some are meant to be “Christian” but end up withering into something more entertainment driven. As I said, Sequitur has Promptus, and so that's where we want to help our children gain their focus. Promptus has to do with prompting or prodding, directing and aiming. The goal of it is to aim our children, as the arrows they are, in the right and ultimate direction, to the apex of their studies and their humanity: to the Triune God. This is the ultimate commitment we make in our studies, that we belong first and foremost, and ultimately, to God. Not only do we have limited time, we also have limited allegiances. And while our democracy is indeed a blessing and the fruit of God’s grace, we don’t want our students’ allegiances to be muddied or confused with hints of nationalism, tribalism, racism, or capitalism. We do not regularly say the “Pledge of Allegiance” during our academic time together (pledging to a symbol of our political identity) for the same reason we do not say the “Pledge of Allowance” together (pledging to a symbol of our economic identity). There is an order to our desires, and idolatry means misplacing our desires, creating too strong of an allegiance to something which is not worthy of it. There are many pledges we can make, to which we commit our studies and ourselves. There are many directions at which a child’s heart and head can aim; we want to aim it at Christ, with nothing else getting in the way.
The Christian academy is the extension of the church and the family, not the state. Not only would a habit of saying the “Pledge of Allegiance” confuse our students’ ultimate allegiances, but it would be misplaced. Because we have created a society which believes the academic institution, the school, is the extension of the government, then we believe that the school is a kind of political and civil factory. And so when we want to build into the imaginations of our children and our teachers that this is the case, we have them recite not a religious creed but a political one. If we believed the school was the extension of, let’s say, our duty to Zeus, we would be reciting quite a different allegiance each morning; this day may come. A school may be the extension of many things, but a Christian school is the extension of Christian churches and Christian homes, and so the allegiances and creeds we say therein ought to be distinctly and ultimately aimed at the heavenly Mount Zion and not Capital Hill or Mt. Olympus.
Nationalism is a modern idol. There ought to be times when an individual fasts from something because it has become an idol. There ought to be times the church fasts from something, because it has become an idol (might I suggest technology, contemporary music, fashion, and individualism). It is the same with families and schools. Because nationalism is one of the greatest idols of our day, we ought to lean in the direction of stripping from our Christian communities any semblance of nationalism. We do this with racism, because we see how easily it deteriorates the individual, and because we prize individualism over race, we rid ourselves of racism. But we do not do this so easily with nationalism, because we see it much more as an adhesive, binding individuals together for a greater cause. And this is where nationalism is dangerous. It binds us with a perishable bond, a bond which does not hold. Nationalism will not ultimate bind our nation together and it will not ultimately bind our individual persons to virtue. When virtue meets nationalism, it shines but for a moment, until vice enters. And then nationalism becomes one of the ugliest and most deceitful creatures a man can detect in himself. He is rampant today, and so as Christians we have a responsibility to smash those idols in ourselves and in our children. And so we ought not to take a pledge or oath to them.
But it says “Under God.” As it should, and as it truly is, which is why a Christian can say the “Pledge of Allegiance” with a good conscience and without contradiction. I just do not advise that we make it a common habit at our Christian schools, in our Christian homes, or in our Christian churches. The words we corporately recite alongside other Christians should have the utmost weight to them, and our children ought to be serious about the oaths they make. Perhaps if there were a qualifier before the word “allegiance” in the opening line, we can revisit the question. Compare this with the LSU Alma Mater, which no Christian should recite, if he believes words, oaths, and allegiances matter.
Where stately oaks and broad magnolias
shade inspiring halls,
There stands our dear Old Alma Mater
who to us recalls
Fond memories that waken in our hearts
a tender glow,
And make us happy for the love
that we have learned to know.
All praise to thee our Alma Mater,
molder of mankind,
May greater glory, love unending
be forever thine.
Our worth in life will be thy worth
we pray to keep it true,
And may thy spirit live in us,
I find it interesting that no parent, student, board member, or faculty in seven years has raised this question at Sequitur, even though nearly all of us said the Pledge daily at school; I even led it on several occasions over the intercom during my Elementary, Middle, and High School years. I believe the question has not been raised at Sequitur because each day when we arrive at our academy, our eyes are fixed on something far beyond the stars and stripes. And when that happens, there is little desire to take an oath or allegiance to lesser goods, and most especially to lesser gods.