To Confess Our Faith or Pledge Our Allegiance?
The recent NFL controversy--which has spread to other venues too--concerning the appropriate posture during the national anthem has had my mind running in so many directions.
First, my mind went down the liturgical path. We are liturgical beings; and, therefore, we need structure, order and routine. It's what we do. It's who we are. It's all around us. We need it. We crave it. As such the national anthem serves as the liturgical call to worship of all American sporting events. When we realize it, we are shocked by it.
Second, I started thinking about the nature of the national anthem itself--this cultural call to worship--and what protesting it signifies. Far more than a set of beliefs that one is called upon to affirm intellectually, the protests to the national anthems reveal that the American anthem that signals the beginning of the contest is actually a declaration of allegiance to the country. As one stands at attention, with hand over heart, one is not just listening to a song but pledging allegiance to the nation represented by that song. And hence the protests--"I won't pledge allegiance to this nation"--and the response to the protests--"how dare they not pledge their allegiance to this nation?"
My mind was then drawn back to an interesting book I had read sometime ago by Matthew Bates: Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King. Those reading the book from a Reformed theological perspective will find plenty to quibble over, but they will also find some fascinating insights and provocative suggestions. One such suggestions has to do with the use of the Apostles' Creed in worship services.
I have written about the use of creeds generally and about the use and meaning of the Apostles' Creed specifically elsewhere. I have usually done so from the perspective of a confession. In other words, this document is an expression of what I believe to be true. These are the facts of Christianity to be affirmed. And that's good and right.
Bates, however, encourages us to take the use of the Apostles' Creed a step further and think of the creed and use the creed in a manner akin to a Christian pledge of allegiance, "...the creed is not a mere statement of common belief," he writes, "but is the allegiance-demanding good news" (p. 211).
Each week children in the United States place their hand over their hearts, face the flag, and pledge allegiance. Other countries have similar allegiance ceremonies--and all of us who participated in such ceremonies as children...can attest to their power for creating and maintaining loyalty. The Apostles' Creed needs to be mobilized so that it functions like a flag pledge--to become the Christian pledge of allegiance for the universal church (p. 210).
Rather than merely parroting some words passed down through the generations, our confession of faith is a pledge of allegiance to King Jesus. He is the One in whom we believe. These are the truths about Him and what we believe from His word. This is that for which we live This is that for which we die. This is that for which we stand. Used in this way, the Apostles' Creed has the power to create and maintain loyalty to King Jesus and promote unity among his followers. Ironically, when we confess the truths of the Apostle's Creed, we are essentially doing so on bended knees before the Savior.