Blogpost December 6.jpg

I grew up saying ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag, etc.’, as well as the pledge to the Texas flag. This would have horrified Christians in the 15th and 16th centuries and for the centuries before. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us, ‘But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne;’ (Matthew 5:34). In James, the Apostle writes, ‘But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.’ (James 5:12)

Pledge has a different etymology but the same meaning as oath or swearing. It is a solemn promise. What allows Anglicans who follow the 39 Articles and Methodists who follow the Articles of Religion to say a pledge is the interpretation of the those two verses cited above by the 25th article, which I will quote in full here.

Article XXV - Of a Christian Man's Oath

As we confess that vain and rash swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord Jesus Christ and James his apostle, so we judge that the Christian religion doth not prohibit, but that a man may swear when the magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according to the prophet's teaching, in justice, judgment, and truth.

Cranmer and the leaders of the English Reformation clearly thought (and John Wesley agreed with them) that Jesus and James were speaking of vain or rash oaths or swearing or promises. Since the Victorian era, Protestants have used these verses to condemn cuss words, but that has literally nothing to do with what James or Jesus are talking about. 

Are you a citizen of heaven? Who is your Lord? That is the question with which Jesus is concerned. We should give to Caesar what is caesar’s. We should not be treasonous to the places wherein we reside. We should see the legitimate government’s of our land as authoritative, but they cannot save us. They cannot make our word good or feed us the bread of life. This is the point of Jesus and James and the point of the 25th Article. 

Without it, Christians would be hard pressed to close on a mortgage. How many documents did you sign? Notary publics would be pointless. Presidents and judges couldn’t be sworn in to office. All of these would be morally repugnant according to one interpretation of these verses. Instead, Article 25 shows how we must hold all our oaths and pledges and promise ‘according to the prophet’s teaching, in justice, judgment, and truth.’

May they be a lesson for all our actions. May you live ‘according to the prophet’s teaching, in justice, judgment, and truth.’