Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Oath of Allegiance

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

You have just read the Oath of Allegiance, recited by those who wish to obtain United States citizenship.  I proudly sat with my oldest son last Friday while we watched his wife, my lovely daughter-in-law from Colombia, take that oath in company of 147 others from 44 different countries as each ended a long path to become US citizens.  

Smiles graced everyone's faces.  People cheered and clapped.  Cameras everywhere recorded the moment for posterity.  All had worked hard to get there, studied, prepared, hoped they passed and had properly filled out myriads of paperwork.  To them, gaining an understanding of US civics opened a door to new life and hope.  To me, born here in the USA, generally unconscious of the freedoms I enjoy because of it, civics was a boring high school course I had to suffer through in order to graduate.  To them, being willing to serve in any capacity for the sake of our freedoms is a privilege; to most of us, it is an unwanted and unwelcomed responsibility, and to be avoided if at all possible.

A quick leap, isn't it, to what people of faith claim to have:  citizenship in the kingdom of heaven.  I wonder how many of us who claim that citizenship could pass even a simple test on the basics. For example, one of the possible questions during the immigration interview is, "Name the first 13 states."  Well, how about naming the 12 original apostles?  Another question, "What do the stripes on the flag stand for?"  How about, "What is the purpose of the resurrection of Jesus?"  Or, "How many changes or amendments to the Constitution are there?" vs "What are the two greatest commandments?"

I also wonder how many of us who claim citizenship in the kingdom of heaven are actually ready to carry the burden of defending that place?  How ready are we to serve when called upon, even to the point of disrupting our normal lives because there is indeed a greater call upon us?

Both people who claim heavenly citizenship and people who claim US citizenship are woefully ignorant about our faith and our nation.  It's more important to know the TV schedule, plots of the latest movies, key moves to the latest electronic games, the scores and rankings of our favorite sports teams, and the passwords to our computers than it is to learn the language of political freedom and the language of religious belief, both of which have far, far more real impact on our lives.  

Parents and grandparents:  get your children to church and to church educational programs. Quit making excuses for their absences.  Someday all young people need to decide for themselves what they will believe and why. But unless they have some knowledge of what their faith tradition is about, they have no basis upon which to make a decision.  And that's just not right.  As they say, ignorance of the law is no excuse.  Nor is ignorance of matters of eternal importance.

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