Question: Is the pledge to the American flag idolatry?
What the Pledge of Allegiance Means
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…”
To “pledge allegiance” is to promise your loyalty. To pledge allegiance to a flag is to promise loyalty to whatever entity that flag represents. Therefore, to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America is to promise your loyalty to America as a country and the fundamental ideals America is founded upon. Those ideals are stated in the pledge itself: “the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
What Idolatry Means
According to the Bible, Idolatry is an act of worship to a deity represented by some object. The idol itself is typically viewed as containing the power or essence of the deity it represents, which explains why idolaters worship material objects. As Paul writes:
Rom. 1:25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator…
When God spoke through Isaiah the prophet about the powerlessness of idols made from wood, He gave this revealing example:
Is. 44:15 Then it [wood] becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it.
To worship something as a god is to treat it as deserving total, unquestioning trust, obedience and submission. For this reason, God commanded through Moses:
Ex. 20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
As Romans 1:25 suggests, an idol is not restricted to man-made objects. Anything in the created realm can become an object of misplaced worship. Throughout history humanity has worshiped the sun, moon and stars (Jer. 8:2), animals, fish, birds and reptiles (Rom. 1:23), the power of military strength (Ps. 20:7), and our own ingenuity and technology (Gen. 11:3).
Is The Pledge Idolatry?
Anything can be made an object of idolatrous worship, including a flag or the nation it represents. However, the pledge of allegiance is a personal commitment to the high ideals of 1) a representative form of government and the rule of law (Republic), (2) to a nation unified under God, (3) and to the equal availability of liberty and justice for every citizen.
Nothing in that pledge either assumes or requires a slavish trust, obedience, submission to, or worship of the flag or the ideals it represents. Even less does the pledge assume or require an idolatrous worship of the nation’s elected government. In fact, the pledge of allegiance assumes the right of American citizens to replace any elected officials who do not represent true American ideals with representatives who do!
To promise our loyalty to the American ideals represented by our country’s flag is not an act of worship; it is an act of honor.