Tuesday, November 16, 2010


It would be very convenient if I were to become a U. S. citizen. I've had my green card long enough, and we can spare the money, and I'm only mildly allergic to paperwork, so none of that is holding me back. What's holding me back is the Oath of Allegiance.

I've had difficulties with allegiance for quite a while. It actually started the summer between second and third grade. My family was living in Dallas, TX at the time, and the elementary school I attended had a tradition of making the children stand up and recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. This may be common nationwide; I only speak from my own experience. What happened that summer when I was 8 years old was that I learned the meanings of the words "pledge" and "allegiance". The first day of third grade, as we recited the pledge in the morning, I was horrified. Without knowing what I was doing, I had promised to align myself with a foreign country! The following day, I stood with my hand over my heart, facing the flag, and kept my mouth shut while my classmates recited the pledge. After a few days of this behaviour, my teacher confronted me. I struggled to express my feelings, stating only, "I don't think I should say it because I'm from South Africa." I don't remember anything of her response, only that the result was that during pledge time for the rest of my time in Dallas, I mouthed the words in unison with my classmates without making a sound.

When I started considering upgrading from green card holder to U. S. citizen, I read the Oath of Allegiance which all new citizens are required to take. It states,

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.

The part that gives me pause is not either of the ones that they allow an exception for (military service, or using the word "oath"). My problem is that, first and foremost, I am a citizen of the holy nation of God Almighty. As a global nomad, I'm not particularly attached to any earthly prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty - heck, there isn't a city on the planet I've spent a total of 6 years in. I'm interested in U. S. citizenship for its convenience - my husband and 3 children are citizens, and when we travel it'd be easier to stand in the same queues as them. I don't mind giving up my allegiance to South Africa. My problem is that I am absolutely and entirely the subject of the Creator of the Universe (including all the nation states on earth), the Prince of Peace, the Blessed and Only Sovereign. I will never renounce or abjure my allegiance or fidelity to him, but will remain subject to him all my life, a fellow citizen of all believers in Jesus.

I know, I know. They don't mean to involve God at all, except as a means to enforce compliance with the oath ("so help me God"). But if a situation ever arises where my allegiance to Christ and his Kingdom conflicts with my allegiance to the United States, I would not like to have sworn to ally myself with the United States. If the word "earthly" could be inserted in the oath ("...I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any earthly prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen...") I would be quite happy with it. I just have no idea how to go about doing that - it's not a box you can check.

What would you do?


  1. I think it is entirely appropriate to interpret "foreign" as meaning "earthly". Because God is neither American nor foreign, so in abjuring allegiance to foreign powers you are not at all abjuring your allegiance to God.

    I think many Americans (including many of those who most enthusiastically recite the Pledge of Allegiance) would readily say that they hold their allegiance to the U.S.A. as subordinate to their allegiance to God, even if their nationalistic rhetoric seems inconsistent with that position. I would encourage you to think the same when/if you recite this oath.

  2. Thanks, Matt! I can certainly see it that way. I wasn't thinking in those terms, mainly because of the Bible passages that talk of us being aliens and strangers in the world - "foreign" in that sense meaning not earthly. But it helps to look at it the way you suggest - maybe after another few months of mulling it over, I'll be ready to take the plunge using your interpretation. It is a big decision.

  3. You may want to look into what exceptions are made for Jehova's Witnesses. They have a similar issue with religious beliefs against swearing earthly allegiances, so I would expect there is already an approach for addressing your concern.