From ONE Magazine

perspectives Allegiance

School kids in America usually start the school day with a “Pledge of Allegiance” to “the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Allegiance is a lesser value in our day than it used to be. In a feudal society, it is a key value. Everyone knows his place. You owe allegiance to the one over you (your lord) and are responsible to him. Those under you owe allegiance to you (their lord) and you have responsibilities for them.

Many other creatures have similar relationships. When it comes to chickens, it’s clear that there is a “pecking order” among them. In every barnyard, you know which bird is boss.

Dogs sort out their relationships very quickly; in a pack, it’s easy to see who is the “alpha male.”

Elephants recognize who is the matriarch of the herd.

It’s all about domination.

Who is the dominus — the lord, the master — for you and me?

For Saint Paul it was clear. He knew to whom primary allegiance was due. As he wrote to the Romans,

None of us lives as his own master andnone of us dies as his own master. Whilewe live we are responsible to the Lord,and when we die we die as his servants.Both in life and death we are the Lord’s.

Would that we all knew our primary allegiance as well as Paul.

What about who owes allegiance to us? Under God, for whom are we responsible?

Often the rest of our relationships and allegiances are no better than those of birds and bees, dogs and cats, elephants and all other creatures.

What does our Lord tell us about lording over others? The first part of the answer is in Genesis, where it says that God has placed the whole world under us:

Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth andsubdue it. Have dominion over the fish ofthe sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.

The corollary of this is that we are responsible for the whole world and all the creatures in it — a truth being reaffirmed in our contemporary concern for the environment.

What about our human relationships, one with the other? “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Oh, yes. As Saint John reminds us:

This is the commandment we have fromhim: whoever loves God must also love hisbrother.

Jesus dramatically illustrated this when he, teacher and master, washed his disciples feet as a model for them to follow.

If we know our true allegiance and responsibilities, we have a standard to guide all our decisions and our lives.

We shouldn’t act as animals. They are as God made them. And, we must be as God made us.

Individuals or families, tribes or nations, countries or organizations — we’re not meant to establish a pecking order, boss others around, intimidate as an alpha male or be the matriarch of the herd.

We exercise our “domination” through love.

Msgr. Archimandrite Robert L. Stern