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Quakers like oats, not oaths August 22, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in personal, religion, younger son.
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Last spring, younger son came to me and said he wasn’t comfortable saying the Pledge of Allegiance. His reasoning was that one of the ten commandments says one should not pray to false idols, and he very much felt that saying the pledge was the equivalent of praying to a false idol.

I thought this was a very interesting perspective, and I admired his desire to be consistent.  It also felt like one of those ‘teachable moments,’ so it led into a whole discussion on the Quaker view that one should not take oaths. Not only does it have a basis in the new testament, but many quakers feel like it creates a double standard for truth. There’s also the issue that you’re making a promise to adhere to something whether or not it contradicts your conscience or beliefs.  (I previously discussed oath taking in this post.)

After our discussion, I sent an email to his teacher and principal discussing his decision and how this is part of our beliefs as Quakers. They said they understood, and there would be no problems.

I was glad to hear this.  The younger son actually attends a religiously affiliated school.  I have no problems with the beliefs of this religion, but I have found that there seem to be some differences in implementation of those beliefs.

I wasn’t sure how the younger son would handle things in a new class this year. I asked him if he said the pledge, and he said yes…and then realized he’d forgotten about what he said last year. So he immediately said he wasn’t going to say it any more. But then he said that he also had to say a pledge to the christian flag and an oath to the bible. But that was okay, because it’s really an oath to God.

That really disturbed me. First of all, I have no idea what the Christian flag even is. Who decided the Christians needed a flag? (Mike informed me that the Methodists did about 100 years ago.)

Yep...there really is a Christian flag.

Yep…there really is a Christian flag.

Second, many Quakers don’t hold to the notion of the Bible as the literal word of God.  I asked the younger son if he would make an oath to the bible if it said that slavery was okay. He said no, and I said that the Bible does in fact say that slavery is okay. We talked about how making oaths in general is a bad idea because people can put bad ideas into good things, and by making an oath or a pledge to something, you may unknowingly be agreeing to a bad thing. The Bible is a good book because, read with an understanding of the social context,  it can help us to become better people.  The point was also made that the men who wrote it were not bad people, but they had a lot of different beliefs back then that were incorporated into the Bible whether or not we think those ideas are okay today or were actually divinely inspired.

I think that was really rough for him. He’s still at the stage where he likes to see things in terms of black and white, good or bad. I just took something he’s been taught is all good and sacred and told him that there is evil in it. I could tell he felt bad learning that, and I felt bad for shattering that particular world view. But I also want him to understand that his conscience is the most important moral compass that exists for him, and he needs to learn to trust that instead of blindly following what other people tell him.

I am worried we’ll be hearing from his new teacher.  I’m also having trouble dealing with cognitive dissonance because my son was asked to make an oath to something that says not to take oaths.

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Comments»

1. Paul Franklin - August 22, 2013

Whew! Being a Zen Buddhist is much easier. 🙂

Sounds like good food for thought for everyone though.

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mareserinitatis - August 22, 2013

It’s easier being a Buddhist as an adult. I imagine if you were a Buddhist in grade school in North Dakota, it would be a bit more frustrating.

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2. Kari - August 22, 2013

I hope it does not cause issues with his new teacher, but it sounds like this has definitely generated an important discussion between you and your son, which is always a good thing.

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mareserinitatis - August 22, 2013

Yeah, I agree the discussion is good. I have to admit I’m surprised to be having these discussions at this point, but I suppose there’s no time like the present.

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3. Robert - September 12, 2013

What a interesting post, awesome 🙂
Do you have the reference of the New Testament and oath ? Since I was looking for it. I do not find it anymore.
Thank’s 🙂

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mareserinitatis - September 12, 2013

James 5:12 and Matthew 5:34-37

There’s more info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testimony_of_integrity

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