Friends and the Pledge, the Anthem, and Courtrooms: Eschewing the Sacraments of Liberal Democracy

Grand Rapids Friends Meeting has had an ongoing email discussion over the weekend over the appropriate response by Quakers to the expectations of the nation state. A young Freind asked me whether I said the Pledge of Allegiance or not. I replied that I did not, nor do I stand for anthems, or for judges in courtrooms. This is pertinent for me, because I am present in District Court in Ottawa County twice a month before two separate judges, and have had to explain my faith to them that I might not reflect poorly upon my agency or the clients. As with oaths and swearing, I figured that most Friends shared my faith and practice.

 

As it has turned out, a few Friends are similarly abstinent from engaging in such rituals, but many do stand for anthems and pledges, even if they do not speak the words. Some Friends mean not to offend others, and one Friend even suggested that judges are due respect in a courtroom because they may rule more equitably when shown such respect.

 

My reasons for not participating in nation state rituals are based upon a few perceived truths. First, no entity, institution, or individual is due the respect that should be reserved for YHWH. That being said, every human being deserves the utmost respect that can be shown in a manner that reflects the love of God for each person as an equal. Since I do not stand out of respect for any other individuals, why would I suggest that a judge has cornered the market on respectablility by standing for him or her. What happens when judges, or the nation state, acts agaisnt the desire of God with inequitable sentencing or waging war and discriminating against the marginalized?

 

Anthems and lledges simply grant to much status to the nation state. While it is nice to enjoy specific rights here in the West, honor still goes solely to God, who may at any point place a faithful person in a place where they do not have protetcted rights.Yet, that person must still speak the Truth. YHWH is the arbiter of Truth and justice, and not the nation state, whether it allows those with the funding to speak liberally or those without money to be collectively shrill. Civil Disobedience in spite of a governement's authority as arbiter of justice is the measure of God's People, and not reliance upon the nation state to protect and observe rights. It is common for many participants in Christendom to suggest that the constitutional republic is the only reason we worship freely.  I believe Daniel and the Apostles would have something to say about that. So would believers in communist countries. We should worship God because we can live no other way, not because the nation state protects our right to do so.

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