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How Do Jews and Christians Reconcile Things Like The Pledge?

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  • How Do Jews and Christians Reconcile Things Like The Pledge?

    Originally posted by The Holy Bible
    4–6 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord our God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
    Does the Pledge to the Flag not violate this commandment entirely? Seems that all statues and monuments to the ten commandments and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel do as well.
    Last edited by ThomasJefferson; 06-23-2013, 02:20 PM.

  • #2
    Not sure what the issue is.... The pledge is just that, a pledge. It is not worshipping the flag as a deity.


  • #3
    This is a topic covered at some point in most Christian education curricula that I've seen. (I've only worked with a small sample, so I don't know how pervasive it is, but I think the case that Merlyn sites was a motivation to make sure mainstream denomination members were prepared when the Jehovah's witnesses knocked at their door.) In a nutshell ...

    The pledge in its current revision calls for allegiance to the "one nation under God". That is, inasmuch as the nation is subservient to (and not a replacement for) God, a Christian's allegiance should not be torn. Jewish thought falls along similar lines. In fact the way the pledge is said emphasis this. Only non-religious civilian headgear is supposed to be removed.

    That phrase is not a litmus test for a Christian to use to declare fealty. St. Paul encouraged believers to view government to be a gift from God to order our lives. And certainly there was no reference to God in any test of loyalty in ancient times. Most of the 1st Century church didn't need to bother with oaths, but some were soldiers and servants of Rome. They all seemed to carry on their duties without much disruption.

    That changed with the edicts that all military officers (and other public figures) were to burn incense to Caesar. Even so, the record of folks martyred for the faith (as atheists, by they way, because they lived life without the pantheon of gods) included a broad swath of citizens, indicating that folks were still fulfilling their public duties in spite of the persecution.

    Of course, once Christianity became the imperial religion, things changed drastically and, in many unfortunate cases, to the opposite extreme (pogroms, Crusades, wars of reformation, counter reformation, etc...).

    Ultimately, it's not an oath or a flag that matters. Anything that declares itself as the sole authority above God is anathema. So each Christian is to determine in his/her every day life what lesser gods may be vying for supremacy. And from time to time, a nation with exactly an oath such as ours could be that lesser god.

    This line of thought renders the pledge itself as non-problematic, and directs a believer to be concerned about more immediate issues of social justice.


    • #4
      OK, lots of writing, but no one addressing the issue: The First Commandment specifically bans making images of anything at all - that would include all statues, all paintings, all drawings. It also bans you in a separate statement from "bowing down" to them. Saluting them and pledging your loyalty to them seems to violate all parts of this commandment. Nothing quazse writes addresses why it is OK. It's just a history of rationalizations.

      If I were a Christian, and I believed wholly in the Ten Commandments, I would have no pictures in my home of any kind, no statues, no images of anything. No computer with images on it of any kind, and I would never salute or bow down to anyone or anything other than God.

      I don't see any way to argue that it is OK to do that. God says it isn't. Directly. Quoted, written words of law from God, those Ten Commandments.


      • qwazse
        qwazse commented
        Editing a comment
        The definitive response against iconoclasm was written in the 8th century. You can find an excerpt of it on the wiki entry of that term.

        ... we declare that we defend free from any innovations all the written and unwritten ecclesiastical traditions that have been entrusted to us. One of these is the production of representational art; this is quite in harmony with the history of the spread of the gospel, as it provides confirmation that the becoming man of the Word of God was real and not just imaginary, and as it brings us a similar benefit. For, things that mutually illustrate one another undoubtedly possess one another's message. ... we decree with full precision and care that, like the figure of the honoured and life-giving cross, the revered and holy images, whether painted or made of mosaic or of other suitable material, are to be exposed in the holy churches of God, on sacred instruments and vestments, on walls and panels, in houses and by public ways; these are the images of our Lord, God and saviour, Jesus Christ, and of our Lady without blemish, the holy God-bearer, and of the revered angels and of any of the saintly holy men. The more frequently they are seen in representational art, the more are those who see them drawn to remember and long for those who serve as models, and to pay these images the tribute of salutation and respectful veneration. Certainly this is not the full adoration in accordance with our faith, which is properly paid only to the divine nature, but it resembles that given to the figure of the honoured and life-giving cross, and also to the holy books of the gospels and to other sacred cult objects.

    • #5
      It's ok because we're imperfect and make mistakes and often choose to ignore 'rules' that we feel like ignoring. Does that answer your question?


      • jblake47
        jblake47 commented
        Editing a comment
        Render under Caesar that which belongs to Caesar....

    • #6
      Jewish Thought: The Mishah (oral law) explains what is meant by the terms, the Gemara (commentary on oral law) codifies the laws, as expressed in the Talmud. We follow the rules by the Sages (Talmud), later Toral greats (Rambam, Shulchan Aruch), and contemporary men trained in Jewish Law. We don't follow rules based upon a Christian English translation of the Latin Translation of the Greek Translation of the Torah. The relationship with the Greek translation is complicated, but we follow the Hebrew Version... later translations are for the ease of understanding of the laity, not matters of Jewish law.

      In general, no idols, nothing that was at one time an idol, and nothing that could be considered an idol. Statues are generally frowned upon, though technically only prohibited if the materials are those that were once used to create idols.

      Jewish Law considers a "Vow" to be as binding upon the vower as anything in the Torah, so Jewish tradition holds that normal people (extremely pious historical figures excepted) do not make vows, affirmations and pledges are not at the level as a vow so are permitted. So pledging to honor the country under God is perfectly acceptable. The "flag" we are pledging allegiance to is not the physical flag in front of us, but the "flag of the United States," the authority of the United States. Jewish Law holds that as a normal rule, the law of the land is the law of the Jewish people as well (exceptions are when the state directly prohibits something required in Jewish Law, i.e. circumcision, religious worship, etc.

      The phrase you translated as "carved image" is referring specifically to the idols of Egypt and Canaan... peoples who worshipped fantastical creatures, or gods in the shapes of animals. It's not referring to a picture of a stream, it's referring to a carved mountain for a mountain god, etc.

      Very simple overview, if you want a real answer, instead of trolling a Scout forum, ask your local Orthodox Rabbi, who will give you a real answer.


      • #7
        This is a subject I always have a problem with , not the least reason being my faith as a Quaker.
        I teach flag courtesy at CSDC. I always ask the boys, "who might not say the PoA?" I get interesting answers: "A terrorist!" "a traitor!" " Somebody ignorant about america!"
        The older boys usually come up with the good answers: " Maybe they are from a foreign country" "Maybe they aren't a USA citizen" "It might be against their religion". And I leave them with the idea that if they see someone not doing the PoA, perhaps afterward, they can politely ask them about that and they might have a really interesting conversation. I have never been approached by any of the adult Den Walkers about this.

        The PoA has a strange history, the original being written by a Socialist, using a salute that the Nazi's appropriated so that the American PoA salute had to be changed. The PoA was amended twice for different reasons (google it), but there are still problems with it to my mind.
        1) The PoA borders on idolatry. You are promising to be loyal to a piece of cloth, symbol of our nation though it be.
        2) It is, after all, a loyalty oath. Pledge, promise, you are promising to be loyal to a nation. This may or may not be a good thing, as such promises are, after all, only as good as the person making them. Hence the Quaker testimony about truth telling. See Mathew 5:33 and James5:12. One is either a good citizen or one is not. Saying you will be doesn't make it happen. Loyalty oaths/promises are hardly ever a good thing when made to Objects. Promises to ideals are another thing. Look at the BSA promise or the 4H promise....
        2A) Even our military do not promise loyalty to the nation, rather to the Constitution ( Look it up.), but then the Constitution defines what our nation is, does it not?
        3) "Under God" is a desirable ideal, but, again, saying it doesn't make it so. Whose God? This nation has lots of proof indicating a lack of being "under God"
        .4) I believe I would rather my children learn the Declaration of independance and Constitution and the Gettysburg Address. The PoA just complicates things.
        5) "Not saying it shows a lack of respect for our country and its flag". Well, no. The PoA was not around for the first 150 plus years of our nations existance, patriotism and love of country can be expressed in many other, perhaps more meaningful ways.
        6) I love the Cubs (and older Scouts!) responses when we start talking about the US flag. "What should you do if the flag falls on the ground and gets dirty?" "BURN IT!!" "Retire it!" no, let's wash it, dry it and fly it again!
        Well, how about when it finally gets worn and torn and doesn't really look good? "THEN we BURN IT!!!" Okay, let's talk about a good retirement ceremony....
        Does the US flag ever STOP being a US flag? "Yeah! When we BURN it!!" Okay, let's talk about how the flag has changed through the years... and, no, it never stops being a US flag. Thirteen stars is a good as 50.


        • #8
          As a Buddhist, I don't have to worry about the Ten Commandments, but my consultant on all things Judaic tells me that in the original Hebrew translation, the word translated as "commandment" could also be translated at "recommendations." Suggestions for a better way to live your life. In any case, it's obvious that Moses wanted to get the Israelites away from worshiping golden idols and other gods they had seen in Egypt. I don't think flags and pictures resemble those things at all. One of the problems that the Judeo-Christian religions have, it seems to me, is that the Bible was written by humans. There are many things in the Old Testament that are pretty much overruled in the New. Gets very confusing to the average Christian.


          • #9
            First, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."

            Second, pledge your allegiance to your country.

            It really is not that difficult to understand if you choose to do so.


            • #10
              Just got around to reading the wikihistory noted by Friend Merlyn. The ideals propounded in the Constitution often give some folks problems because they ALLOW folks to disagree . In effect, ENCOURAGE folks to disagree. Can one be a good citizen without promising to be loyal to a piece of colorful cloth? I say yes. I also say that unless the IDEALS that that piece of cloth represent and are supposed to remind us of are not remembered, then no promise, required or not, will help. It is the IDEALS we should be teaching, not abject unthinking kneebending.
              Here's where Scouting is important and can be a leader.
              Non -violence not withstanding, I actually like the wording of the Soldiers Pledge, for what it says.

              I am reminded of the old church elder who was asked which translation of the Bible he favored, as the church was about to present their third graders with Bibles for their Sunday School classes. He responded that "If the King James Bible was good enough for Jesus, it ought to be good enough for us"..

              Just because some folks think a PoA should be required, doesn't make it necessary or appropriate. To paraphrase a Quaker founder, "Thee should say it as long as thy canst. "