Matthew Paul Turner’s 38 Theses

matthew-paul-turner1Matthew Paul Turner recently posted a nice list of 38 inspirational suggestions for the Church. It’s a nice list of values and actions he would like to see it embrace. While I agree with most of them, there are some suggestions that I see as problematic.

Let me state up front that I get that these are supposed to be inspirational ideas, not specific agenda items. Most of my qualms are in regards to their application rather than the idea itself. For brevity’s sake, I’m going to skip over those that I’m on board with:

2) The Church needs to sober of its addiction to cool and/or its addiction of trying to be cool. We weren’t called to be cool or to pursue cool. Our addiction to that end is sucking us dry of meaning, depth, and future relevance. Besides, the Church isn’t cool, especially when its trying to be.

There are few things more cringe-worthy than seeing a Christian try to be cool. We’ve all endured pastors who try to use a pop culture reference in a sermon that reveals just how out of touch they are. But every element of our worship tradition was new at one time. What has deep meaning now was once a head-scratching change that lots of people probably didn’t get or feel comfortable with. The church constantly fumbles in its attempts to be relevant, but sometimes these attempts stick. Contemporary worship was a deliberate attempt to appeal to people who found liturgical services stuffy and dull. It’s been so successful that many Christians have never experienced any other kind of service.

8) The Church should be known more for celebrating and experiencing the mysteries of God as opposed to learning and reciting humanity’s definitions of God.

I’m not sure what Matthew’s getting at here. It sounds like he’s critiquing the Catholic Catechism, but I need to hear more.

11) The Church should stop fighting a war against religion and embrace the fact that we are a part of religion, that not all religion is bad, and that sometimes religion (in its myriad of forms) can actually be spiritually helpful for some believers.

I assume that he’s referring to evangelical rhetoric that Christianity isn’t really a religion, but a life-changing commitment. To me that line was always nothing more than a marketing strategy. I agree that it’s nonsensical, but I don’t think it amounts to a war against religion.

12) The Church should stop creating enemies out of people with whom it disagrees.

I agree completely, with one minor quibble. There’s a tendency for liberal Christians to criticize evangelicals for their adversarial mentality and miss the fact that they’re doing the same thing. I’m guilty of this, too.

13) The Church should be known for creating/engaging space, time, and practice for helping people connect to the God of the Universe.

As I see it, this idea conflicts with #2. If the church isn’t helping people connect to God, then it needs to try out new approaches, and this will inevitably lead to attempts at coolness.

15) The Church should be defined by the teachings of Christ more so than the theologies of Paul, the Apostle.

This is one of those tricky ideas that sounds good in spirit but becomes difficult to apply. No matter what denomination one subscribes to, most of our theology comes from Paul. Without him Jesus remains a great prophet whose teachings only apply to Jewish people.

22) The Church should evaluate and/or rethink its role among its community, seeking to serve the greater good of all people regardless of their creed, origins, or orientation.


27) The Church should seek to bring glory to God through worship, confession, prayer, and pursuit of the common good.

While I find postmodernism problematic, I do believe that there’s some merit to the deconstructionist approach to language. The premise that individuals apply their own meaning to language makes sense to me. (The Wikipedia article gives a good example: “Words have meaning only because of contrast-effects with other words. ‘Red’ means what it does only by contrast with ‘blue’, ‘green’, etc“). If I state that I bought a red car, you might envision a slick sporty red corvette, while your husband might envision a beat up old Volkswagen.  

The problem with the idea of a “greater good” or the “common good” is that everyone interprets the concept differently. Few people attend a church that they believe isn’t already serving the greater good. One church might define the community’s greater good as trying to convert as many people as possible, while other churches may interpret it as respecting all religious beliefs.

29) The Church should seek out ways to engage God’s resurrection story here on Earth.

This is another idea that I think needs further explanation.

Overall, I commend Matthew for coming up with a good list. But it’s deceptively easy to read some of these suggestions and come away with the belief that the church is already doing these things, or that a more conservative theology would accomplish these goals better than a liberal theology. Obviously this isn’t his intention, but that’s why we need to take the next step and work out how these goals would be carried out in real life.

Sex In The Movies Part 2: Is Drama Evil?

macbeth-largeI spent Part 1 of my series on sexuality in movies trying to reframe the ongoing debate over depictions of sex in media. Rather than delve into whether a specific movie is worthy of our attention, I think it’s worth looking at why these debates unfold as they do.

It’s no surprise that the Puritans gave us the modern framework for these debates. But Christian distrust of the arts goes all way back to Tertullian in the year 197. In De Spectaculis, Tertullian writes:

You shall not enter circus or theatre, you shall not look on combat or show.

This quote, more than any of Paul’s admonishments in the Bible, is the one that launched social conservatism as we know it. And it’s interesting how we managed to retain the spirit of Tertullan’s warning while ignoring the fact that the “clean” alternatives American Christians condone (football, violent movies) fit Tertullian’s description far better than a movie like The Wolf of Wall Street does. The point here is that even today’s most conservative Christians find nuance within Tertullian’s statement and make more exceptions than he would have.

So how did we go from Tertullian to the Puritans? First, it’s important to note that the Puritans viewed the Catholic Church as corrupt papists. They were offended by the aesthetic excess of Catholic churches, as well as Rome’s embracement of Renaissance Art that glorified the human form. The Puritan view of the arts – which wasn’t quite as morose as you might think- functioned as a reaction to Rome by embracing minimalism. Puritans felt the need to “justify” their creative outlets by channeling them as expressions of faith (like writing psalms or reverent poetry). If you go back to the comments section of the Trevin Wax post that inspired this series, note how many commenters follow the Puritan argument that time spent away from God’s Word is time wasted.

So the American mentality towards the arts is actually a deep-rooted reaction towards the perceived creative excesses that the Catholic Church fostered. In addition to simple clothing and churches, the Puritan aesthetic also manifested itself in bans against graven images and depictions of the human form. It’s no accident that landscapes became so popular in America; outside of family portraits, depicting people in art was frowned upon.

This brings us to the theater. For more than a century, American Christians fought a vigorous war against plays or theater performances. They believed that drama was evil:

Make no mistake, the root issue that the believer faces is not the evil of the sinful content of drama, but the form of drama itself. In opposition to that evil the believer must look to the Word of God for direction and protection. By evaluating the form of drama in the light of Scripture and the Three Forms of Unity the believer discovers that drama is an evil which must be forsaken.

At first their main problem with theater wasn’t sexual content or subject matter. It was the belief that to act in a play is to deliberately lie. The actor portraying Romeo wasn’t really a lovesick man in love with a girl (whose part – like all womens’ roles – was usually played by a male actor). The actor portraying Macbeth wasn’t really a king. The whole show was based on actors intentionally deceiving the audience, and the audience reveling in the actors’ sins.

This wasn’t just a mild debate. Pious Christians rioted, ransacked, and drove out actors whenever anyone attempted to open a theater or put on a play. The war against plays was in many ways the first culture war, and it established the blueprint we still go by.

So how did the theater finally gain footing? Through church services. It was one of the the first artistic truces between church and art in our history, and it foreshadowed the church’s pattern of declaring new art forms Satanic until they found ways to utilize them for spiritual purposes.  And it happened because church attendance was in decline (yes, even in the 19th century, people backslid on attending church). A small number of pastors broke the hardline stance against theater and invited actors to perform morality plays that fit with the morning sermon. The plays were a hit, so the spirit of the free market overtook the spirit of Tertullian, and slowly but surely pastors stopped fighting against theaters.

The irony with our current debate over sex in media is that the church introduced the scandalous elements to our entertainment media. To compete with one another, some churches raised the stakes with more explicit themes. There wasn’t nudity of course, but adultery became the central topic of church plays rather than something that was vaguely hinted at.

Tracts went in the same direction. The first graphic depictions of murder and sex in American literature were written for longform tracts designed as a bait and switch to titillate readers, only to admonish them to stay away from such temptations and repent. As people grew bored with the tracts, the writers made them more salacious. The intent was to keep readers focused on the sinfulness of such behaviors. Eventually the envelope had been pushed too far and the church backed out of morality tales, unleashing them to secular culture.

My point is that the debate about whether The Wolf Of Wall Street is acceptable viewing fare should be seen as a continuation of the centuries-long distrust American Protestants have held towards the arts. And if you take that long view, it’s easy to see that a century from now Christians will probably be a little less neurotic about sex in movies than we are now.

I can understand it if some Christians view this as a validation of the slippery slope argument. And to a degree, it is.  But the problem is, as Tertullian illustrates, no matter how selective modern Christians portray themselves to be, they are much more lax in their entertainment choices than early Christians were. At a certain point they stand their own ground and see grays where Tertullian didn’t, and justify things they enjoy for no deeper reason than the fact that they enjoy it. They might put a Christianese spin on it, but it’s no different than the Christianese spin fans of Martin Scorcese movies use. Many of these these same strict Christians attend churches filled with Satanic rock music, graven images of Christ, and uncovered heads. They choose to ignore these things because they’ve accepted them as cultural norms, and therefore quite reasonable and even pleasant. They choose to battle over The Wolf of Wall Street but look the other way on football.

So I arrive at basically the same ambivalent place Trevin did, although I suspect that I’m much more willing to unapologetically embrace a director’s artistic vision. But this is an issue that Christians must figure out on their own. If Martin Scorcese’s movies lead you to temptation, by all means avoid them. The costs are greater than the gains, and you won’t be able to appreciate them if you can’t move beyond the sex or the violence. But history shows us that anyone making an emphatically declaration of what is or isn’t acceptable entertainment winds up reflecting the mores of their time rather than any universal guidelines.

Sex In The Movies Part 1: Reframing The Debate

puritans25So I’m having a little fun engaging in a discussion at Trevin Wax’s blog about the  merits of sexual content in movies. I think Trevin takes a perfectly reasonable middle ground on the issue: while he rejects the reactionary stance against pop culture that his fundamentalist upbringing bestowed upon him, he also worries that Christians have become too lax about discernment on such matters. The crux of his post comes down to this question:

My question is this: at what point do we consider a film irredeemable, or at least unwatchable? At what point do we say it is wrong to participate in certain forms of entertainment?

I think that’s a fair question, and I appreciated the fact that he didn’t attempt to offer a definitive answer, because I don’t think there is one. I don’t really have a problem with people who are overly cautious about exposing themselves to sexuality in the arts if they genuinely struggle with temptation. If you can’t get beyond “that’s hot!” when viewing a sex scene, you’re not likely to appreciate the larger message a director might be trying to convey with that scene.

But what struck me during the course of the discussion that followed his post was how reticent people were to even admit that entertainment itself was an acceptable activity. There was a lot of “I’m more discerning than the other guy” one-upmanship, and some played the “we should be reading our Bibles instead” card. But the reactionary position ran supreme, so much so that many of the most flexible people argued for viewing such movies as a means of cultural engagement (as if they don’t really like American Idol or Iron Man – they’re just viewing it to figure out how to evangelize to their next door neighbor who does.)

I could spend a lot of time pointing out that even the reactionaries spend a hell of a lot more time enjoying pop culture than they’d care to admit – and that’s not a scandalous admission. After all, let’s not forget that Jesus’ first miracle was to liven up a party.

It’s easy for us to mistakenly assume that the parameters of these debates have always remained basically the same, with more discerning Christians staying on the straight and narrow while weaker souls allowed worldly culture to seep into their lives at ever-increasing rates. This line of argument generally assumes that depicting sexuality has always been bad, and it got exponentially worse since the 1960’s. With rare exception, these people are much more flexible about depicting violence.

But that’s not how it really happened. The reality is that while the Puritans were indeed humorless sorts who occasionally burned witches, sex was something they saw a lot of. Some of this was for logistical reasons; if you and your family were  huddled together in one-room or two-room dwellings, then you don’t have the  luxury of privacy. So you get it on in front of your kids, and if you’ve got more than one couple living under one roof, then there will be a lot of rocking and rolling going on. Puritan kids saw more sex than modern kids do, and they didn’t get the “birds and bees” speech to prepare them for it.

The study I linked to also cites public sex as a frequent occurrence. Puritans weren’t concerned with weak souls tempted by the sight of their neighbors getting it on; they were concerned with maintaining social mores, and for them that meant married sex was great no matter where it happened or who it happened in front of, while unmarried sex was a grave offense. if you were the sort of person who might be filled with lusty thoughts at the sight of people having sex, you likely had a rough time avoiding it.

Of course, the Puritans weren’t very good about maintaining sexual mores. The pregnancy rate among unmarried women could be as high as 25-30%. Men in those days did have a relatively easy out on premarital sex, though. It was assumed that premarital sex was just that – sex you had with the person you intended to marry before you got married. Naive women consented because they assumed the act was as much a sealing of the agreement to get married as the engagement is today. in addition, Puritans were just as weak-willed about sex as modern souls were, so they also had their own porn.

(Before I get back to my main topic, i would like to point out that the current evangelical stance against premarital sex is more rigid than the Puritan stance. Think about it: Puritans realized that a committed couple would likely succumb to their passions, so they were okay with premarital sex. In fact, the age of marriage for women in colonial times was surprisingly similar to our modern average: 23-26 years old. But Puritan brides were rarely virgins, and unlike modern Christians, they weren’t taught to be ashamed of that.)

So what does all of this have to do with salacious content in movies? Well, as I’ll explain in Part 2,  it’s true that Americans have always been neurotic about what entertainment they consume. But the distrust of worldly temptations we inherited form the Puritans wasn’t overt sexual content. It was about honesty.

Gay Marriage Is Here To Stay


Kevin DeYoung has a post over at The Gospel Coalition entitled 5 Reasons Not To Give Up On The Marriage Debate. The title is self-explanatory, and while much of it is just a restatement of the Right’s talking points against gay marriage, there are some tidbits worth dissecting.

His first point addresses The Baby Wars. While DeYoung doesn’t even come close to advocating for Christians to pump out offspring so they can win the ideological battles with sheer numbers, he does accept the premise that demographics predict our ideological future.

I must confess that back in the 90’s I bought into this thinking, too. I didn’t advocate it of course, but there was a cold logic to the idea that the culture that passed on its traditions to the largest number of offspring would gain influence in future generations, while those that produced fewer or no offspring would fade. Classic examples of this were the Shakers (who believed in lifelong celibacy) and Mormons, who are known for large families  (and of course polygamy). If you couple Mormon birth rates with their evangelical zeal, it looked to me as though America’s future belonged to Mormons.

But recent data has confounded these assumptions. According to Pew Forum, the much-discussed Nones are the largest growing religious category, and people nowadays are much more likely to leave their childhood belief system. (It should be noted that this goes both ways: an atheist who turns fundamentalist falls into this category as much as a fundamentalist turned atheist.)

So clearly the picture is more complex. What matters is that DeYoung’s assumption about birth rates isn’t playing out as expected.

Discover magazine addresses at least part of this conundrum. The Austrian study cited by Razib Khan found that being traditional doesn’t mean that one is deeply religious:

Berghammer found that people following the ‘traditional’ lifestyle were more to have 3+ children than those following the ‘modern’ lifestyle. What’s more, traditionalist individuals were more likely to be religious (all Catholic in this analysis).

But – and this is the crucial bit – among those who followed a traditional life path, there was no relationship between their depth of religious belief, or their Church attendance, and the number of children they had.

Exactly the same was seen for those following a modern life path. Although this was more popular among non-religious women, those religious women who did follow this trajectory had no more children than the non-religious.

There was also no difference between the religious and non religious in the chances of remaining single and childless.

Berghammer concludes from this that the critical factor in determining fertility is the choice of life trajectory. Once this has been decided, then religiosity has no further effect on fertility.

DeYoung’s 2nd point baffles me. He leads off with a deeply arrogant assumption:

When you think about how quickly public opinion has swung in favor of gay marriage, it’s clear that the new conclusion has not been reached because of deep, ethical reflection.

It’s this kind of mentality – the assumption that any serious thought about a moral question can only lead to one conclusion – that has annexed evangelicals from mainstream America, and created epistemic bubbles wherein people convince themselves that election polls are all wrong and Romney isn’t losing Ohio.

Gay marriage isn’t growing in acceptance because of hipness or because it’s fashionable to be in favor of it. It’s growing because marriage is inherently unhip. Marriage is the most conservative social institution. There is no clearer way members of our culture signal their desire to become part of the fabric of the community and live a life in accordance with traditional family structure. Gay marriage is popular because it embraces traditional American values rather than contests them. When it became apparent that the gay “lifestyle” was no different than the straight “lifestyle,” the only people left fighting against gay marriage were bible thumpers weened on AIDS- era urban legends.

A recent Daily Show skit illustrates just how far we’ve come. Daily Show pundit Al Madrigal visited the reddest of red states and staged public gay marriage to gauge the reactions of the people around them. Everywhere they went the gay couple received applause and congratulations. The message of the skit became their inability to find antigay hostility.

One final anecdote on this point. Last year I was in a third grade classroom where the teacher was reading a story to the kids about Georgia O’Keefe. At one point, when the teacher mentioned O’Keefe’s marriage, a student asked whether she married a boy or girl. No one was shocked or surprised by the question (except perhaps the teacher); in these childrens’ minds, marrying someone you love no longer carried the requirement of gender. When wide-eyed little girls assume gay marriage has always been with us, then the issue has long since left the realm of urban hipsters.

Pacifism Needs Martyrs

IRAN-DEMOS-133-300x199As I pointed out in Part 1 of my series on pacifism for Political Jesus’s synchroblog, I outlined why pacifism as a viable philosophy in western culture is almost nonexistent. It’s become a incidental personal choice along the lines of choosing to be a vegetarian. It gets discussed at parties but has no real-world impact.

I suspect that this is the kind of pacifism Sarah Moon had in mind for her posts on the subject. I agree that it’s off-putting that modern pacifism seems to manifest as a private belief that never factors real life experiences. These people tend to qualify their beliefs in a defensive manner (i.e. they’re a pacifist except for situations X and Y – because surely no one is foolish enough to be a pacifist in all situations).

But I think focusing on the state of pacifism among privileged white people ignores the fact that the philosophy still thrives in the places it has always thrived: wherever the threat of violence is a daily risk, and the consequences of pacifism are measurable and severe.

In this sense pacifism presents a paradox: wherever hawkish anger and danger are elements of daily life, pacifism will blossom.  If you think about the world’s greatest pacifist movements, all of them existed in situations where death or imprisonment where likely consequences of their beliefs.  We see pacifism burn bright in Iran’s failed 2009 protests, the protests leading up to and after China’s Tianamen Square massacre,  MLK and the Civil Rights Movement, Gandhi, and of course Jesus, whose arguments for peace are so much more powerful given His trial and crucifixion. It’s sad to admit, but pacifism needs martyrs. Without genuine persecution or hostility, pacifism becomes an innocuous lifestyle choice, and in the hands of the privileged it becomes an abstract exercise in hypotheticals.

Pacifism in a real sense has always been the philosophy held dear and lived out by the powerless and unprivileged. We see pacifism espoused with newfound vigor by a Pope raised in a culture where poverty and meekness were the norm. So in a sense I don’t think that privileged pacifism is ever representative of pacifism, even if its adherents are sincere in their beliefs.

Is Pacifism Dead?

hqdefaultI must admit that I was dumbfounded when I heard about Political Jesus’s synchroblog about pacifism. Nowadays pacifism is like socialism; a flawed but noble ideal that few people take seriously and fewer still are willing to embrace completely. The only thing left to say about pacifism would be to write its obituary and mourn its loss.

But Sarah Moon’s recent posts on the subject had me thinking that there was a lot to be said about the topic. In her two-part series on pacifism, Sarah levies a number of grievances against modern pacifists:

1)  The arrogance of privileged pacifists weighing on matters they themselves never had to deal with (and likely never will).

2) The tendency to reduce painful experiences to hypotheticals to be utilized to promote the cause.

Point 1 is what led me to post on the topic. But before I get too deep into this, I should say that my intentions here are to use the issues she raises as jumping-off points. I was befuddled by her description of pacifists who hold Travon Martin accountable for his own death, but then again, I’ve spent a lot of time here describing eccentric Christians. She’s obviously dealt with these oddball pacifists.

My contention with Point 1 is that there are  just plain not many pacifists left, especially among privileged individuals. I suspect the philosophy was mortally wounded by 9/11, when suggestions of a pacifist response to terrorists offended peoples’ sense of justice and desire for retribution.  Twelve years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has numbed us to accept our state of perpetual war. Sure, even non-pacifists want all our troops home. But they’re not willing to dismiss the possibility of new battles.

To remain vital, pacifism needs direct, palpable threats to respond to. This is why pacifism was more conspicuous during the Cold War. Fear of nuclear annihilation compelled people to assess what they were willing to fight for and die for, because we were one button away from the end of humanity. A draftee who refused ti fight in Vietnam was making a major decision that required sacrifice and possibly loss of citizenship. Today’s all-volunteer military filters out conscientiously objectors; if you don’t want to fight, you simply choose not to enlist.

So for the West, the stakes seemed higher back then. Terrorism may carry the threat of dirty bombs, but it’s an abstract concern. No dirty bombs exist yet, while there are still thousands of nuclear warheads that we’ve somehow forgotten about. While some fret over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, their incompetence elicits more jokes than serious discussion. The most urgent nuclear threat lies on the Indo-Pakistani border, but only a handful of westerners give much thought to south Asian politics.

Defense spending used to be a regular point of contention for liberals. Liberals still argue for defense cuts, but since it’s viewed as a losing issue politically, no one frets much about it.  The fact that our current democratic president has presided over the killing if numerous Al Qeada leaders (especially Bin Laden) has become a point of boasting rather than consternation. It’s a talking point that flusters the Right, and pacifism takes a back seat to patriotic cheers and liberal schadenfreude.

If 9/11 provided the fatal blow to the pacifist movement in the West, the seeds of its destruction were planted during the first Gulf War. Pacifists were outraged when CNN showed satellite footage of aerial bombings. The anesthetic view spared the viewer the sight of carnage and destruction. With no humans visible in the target view, every bomb looked like a clean hit with no civilian casualties.

Bill Clinton did his own share of damage to the pacifist cause. When the Serbian genocide grabbed headlines, liberals were the ones arguing for aggressive military intervention. This was back in the days when Ron Paul-style laissez faire foreign policy was the norm for the Republican Party. To give you a sense of how drastic the roles had reversed, I remember a cartoon from that period depicting an angry donkey shouting for war next to a skeptical elephant in a tie-dye t shirt and hippie peace necklace.

And of course, George W Bush did the most damage to pacifism via 9/11 and an escalation of censored war reporting (which the mainstream press gleefully embraced). Neocon foreign policy was assumed to be the most rational response to the threat of terrorism, and anything less than a full-blown effort to kill all of the terrorists was seen as a sign of insensitivity or weakness.

So if pacifism is a dead philosophy in western society, where does that leave it on a global scale? I’ll explore that question in part 2.

The problem with the Pledge of Allegiance


Try this thought experiment for a moment. Most of us are familiar with the Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation Under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Now imagine if this is how it went:

I pledge allegiance to the republic, one nation Under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Recently a thirteen year old girl settled a lawsuit  against her school district regarding her unwillingness to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I’m not sure of the details, but it sounds as though she refused because of her personal convictions. As a result, she was suspended by the school, and her parents fought the suspension unsuccessfully before they went through legal channels.

I must confess that when I was a kid, I didn’t say the Pledge.  I didn’t make a big deal about it, but starting around 3rd grade I had stopped saying the words altogether. On the rare moments when I sensed the teacher might be looking in my direction, I’d put m hand to my heart and mouthed the words without saying them. As I got older and more confident, I’d just stand and wait it out without making a fuss over it. I doubt that any teacher ever noticed or cared that I wasn’t saying the Pledge.

Now most debates over the Pledge center around the “under God” clause. I was an atheist up until I turned 16, but to me “under God” was harmless. Most of my peers weren’t that religious to begin with, so being in a room full of kids who never went to church made “under God” meaningless.

My problem with it was pledging allegiance to the flag. I felt no allegiance to it, and it struck me as strange to pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth hanging on a pole. Besides, Brazil and Argentina had cooler looking flags. So when I heard the pledge, I felt as though the flag was just a little misdirection so people wouldn’t notice what it was really saying: I pledge allegiance to the republic. To my childhood sensibilities, that sounded like something that Darth Vader would have his subjects recite out of fear.

As I got older I outgrew my Star Wars analogy, but the flag still struck me as a frivolous symbol that actually got in the way of what we were really pledging allegiance to, which was the United States of America. So as a teenager I wouldn’t say the pledge because it sounded insincere, particularly given that God and the flag weren’t terribly important to most of my fellow high schoolers. The United States meant a lot to me, but Pledge was still meaningless.

I still feel no allegiance to the flag. I respect what it symbolizes, but my allegiance is to the people here and the sacrifices of people who made this nation possible, not the flag.Nowadays I do say the pledge, and to be honest I “get” its noble intentions a bit more than I used to, but I mostly say it because it is meaningful to a lot of people who served this country.