In the Christian view of life, our primary allegiance is never to any nation, state, or tribe, but to the Body of Christ. The Church is not merely a subset of society or a private organization through which Christians pursue their private spiritual lives, it is the “royal priesthood” (using 1 Peter’s language) of God’s people called out of the world for the sake of the world. Rodney Clapp describes this eloquently in his book on country music and Christian identity in America:
In Christian profession, Gentiles are called into covenantal relation with the God of Israel, the true and living God, through and by Jesus of Nazareth, himself a Jew and indeed the long-awaited Messiah. Drawing and adopting Gentiles into the commonwealth of Israel, Jesus Christ creates “one new humanity in place of the two” (Eph. 2:15). So for the baptized, nothing can be more basic or more significant than their baptism. In baptism, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28). Just as immigrants or “aliens” from another country may be “naturalized” and become citizens of a new country, baptism “naturalizes” the Gentile, incorporates him or her into the body of the Jew Jesus Christ, and grants him or her citizenship in the “commonwealth of Israel.” In the granting of this citizenship, baptism entails nothing less profound than entrance into a new creation, the assumption of a new humanity, a dying to the old self and its identity and a regeneration to a new self and identity (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:4). Nothing can more basically or comprehensively define the Christian than baptism. Membership in the worldwide body of Christ constitutes the Christian’s highest loyalty, his or her central allegiance.
Clapp goes on to describe how, a few months after September 11, a couple visited his parish for a number of weeks. Upon visiting with the priest, they only exhibited one major concern. American identity, the said, was somewhat lacking in the church’s services. Why not affirm the virtues of citizenship, sing patriotic hymns, or share the Pledge of Allegiance during worship? The pastor mentioned that each Sunday they do indeed pray for the country and its leaders, and then concluded, “And we do say the pledge of allegiance – the church’s pledge of allegiance. It’s called the Nicene Creed.” (122-123)
We’ve explored previously why the Nicene Creed is the ancient, ecumenical confession of common apostolic faith of choice for Christians across time and space. But I quite like this image of the Nicene(-Constantinopolitan) Creed as not merely the most unifying and basic statement of Christian faith, but as the pledge of allegiance for the Church herself.
Does your church use the Nicene Creed or other statements of faith? Would another choice be better for our “pledge of allegiance?” Leave a comment below – and don’t forget to subscribe by entering your email address to the right!