A Restless Patriotism

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Richard Beck:

I’m a mess when it comes to the Pledge of Allegiance.

So I’m trying to walk this line between being socially appropriate, respectful to others (particularly to those who have lost loved ones in war), deeply grateful, and yet holding onto the belief that the Pledge of Allegiance is inherently idolatrous.

The problem is that it’s a pledge of allegiance. If it were a pledge of respect, love, or gratitude there wouldn’t be a problem.

Can’t I just say Love and Thank You without pledging allegiance?

But he’s not really talking about the pledge, he’s talking about the Christian response to war. Within Christianity, you find two opinions of war. One believes that some wars are just, the other that no war is just. Logically, if some wars are just then some wars are also unjust, therefore the “just war” Christians and the “pacifist” Christians should find themselves united in their oppositions to some wars.

But the trouble isn’t with the theory. The trouble is in the practice and implementation. … Just war Christians and pacifist Christians rarely move in concert, despite everyone recognizing that this should happen from time to time. And it might ought to happen most of the time.

So what’s the problem?

First, it could be the case that every war declared (and undeclared) by the American government has been a just war.

The second possibility is that American Christians aren’t spiritually capable of resisting the patriotic call in a time of war. That is, when the patriotic call comes it is so powerful that Christians will make any rationalization necessary to fit the current conflict into the mold of just war criteria. At the end of the day, all wars are just wars because they are American wars.

…I think even the most politically conservative Christian would have to admit that this could be a real temptation. And if that is so, then we finally get to the point of this post and back to the Pledge of Allegiance.

My question is this: What skills do we need to practice–today–if we are to be ready to face this temptation?

And to clarify once again. This isn’t about saying there are no just wars. I’ve granted that part of the argument.

This is about something different.

It’s about creating the ability to notice the unjust one.

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