I am not a Texan, but I’ve lived in Texas for the last two years. Even after two years, these Texans continue to surprise me. Last night at our city’s Fourth of July celebration, I was once again reminded that I am a stranger living in a strange land.
At the celebration, a military guard presented the flags so that we could pledge allegiance before we demonstrated our patriotism through witnessing a pyrotechnic display. This was all well and good.
I felt very American at that moment. I was standing in a minor-league baseball park with my children, looking upon Old Glory as we listened to a young lady belt out “The Star-Spangled Banner.” What could be more American than baseball parks, the flag, and a family dressed in red, white, and blue? I along with a few thousand compatriots pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. But then things got weird.
The emcee announced that it was time to pledge allegiance to the Texas flag. What? Before I even realized what was happening, I was no longer standing in the midst of my fellow countrymen. I was a foreigner. Instead of thousands of Americans celebrating their shared cultural identity, our gathering became thousands of Texans and three outsiders.
My two children looked at me helplessly. My nine-year-old daughter mouthed, “I don’t know the words.” I mouthed back, “Me either.” We merely shrugged at each other. At some point my hand dropped from my breast. The entire episode seemed surreal. It was as if the universe shuddered, and I had been shifted into some alternate dimension.
I never quite managed to regain my sense of oneness with the crowd. We weren’t Americans anymore. They were Texans, and we were not. They knew the pledge, and we didn’t. They wanted to pledge allegiance to the flag of Texas, and I didn’t.
I am a Louisianan. We can be pretty proud of our state too, but we’re not like the Texans. Our allegiance to Louisiana tends to be more cultural and culinary. These Texans can be so political. Louisianans find Texas pride both amusing and irritating. Texans tend to take pride in things that we don’t care about. If the citizens of my home state knew that Texas had its own pledge, it would induce statewide eye rolling. There they go again.
This morning a friend informed me that here in Texas children recite the Texas pledge in the public schools. Now I have one more reason to be thankful that my wife homeschools our children. I can protect them from unwanted indoctrination. My wife and I are Louisianans, and we will raise our children to be Louisianans. We shall not let the state decree our family’s cultural identity.
There’s a spiritual lesson in this. We all have multiple allegiances. America, Louisiana, SEC football. Often these allegiances do not come into conflict, but sometimes they do. You can’t be a Louisianan and a Texan in the same way at the same time. For the Christian, it’s even more complicated. We have another citizenship in heaven. We believe that this citizenship demands our ultimate allegiance because this citizenship is the only eternal one. The Church draws its citizenship from every tribe and tongue and nation. It even includes a number of Americans and Texans.
I have a suggestion for when we gather as the Church. Let’s leave all those other allegiances at the door. Just like America is bigger than Texas, the Church is bigger than America. I felt out of place at a celebration for America, even though I am an American, because everyone else took a minute to be Texans. I couldn’t regain a sense of community. Let’s not promote Americanism at our weekly celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Don’t sing the national anthem or “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” during your church service. It’s just not appropriate for the moment. The Church is filled with people who don’t have any allegiance to America. There’s no reason to make them feel that it’s us and them. Can’t we be united in Christ once a week?
ADDENDUM: It was brought to my attention that Louisiana actually adopted a pledge to the state flag in 1981. Revised Statute 49:167 reads:
There shall be a state pledge of allegiance, to read as follows:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the state of Louisiana and to the motto for which it stands: A state, under God, united in purpose and ideals, confident that justice shall prevail for all of those abiding here.”
Who knew? Certainly very few Louisianans.