Pledging Allegiance to God

When he was 14, Johann Christoph Arnold was reported to the principal and brought before a New York public school faculty for refusing to pledge allegiance to the flag. "My allegiance belongs to God," he said, "not to a piece of cloth." His parents were surprised but supportive, and he remembers that his father told him, "if you didn't follow your conscience, you would never find peace." Arnold has been a committed conscientious objector ever since, not only to violence and war but also to the greedy, self-indulgent, and idolatrous self-centeredness that he sees abounding among us and in us.

The peace Arnold proclaims and bids us seek in Seeking Peace: Notes and Conversations Along the Way is not a self-righteous, complacent peace of mind, but peace that comes from total trust in God's care and daily surrender to live as he believes Jesus calls and empowers us to live. All who seek to follow Jesus and to care for our brothers and sisters in the human family will be moved and challenged by Arnold's personal reflections, which run alongside those of sometimes famous, but often unknown, people.

The book contains more than 30 page-long reflections, beginning with a short section on "Seeking Peace" and one titled "Meanings." The latter includes the essays "Peace as the Absence of War," "Peace and the Bible," and "Peace in Personal Life." Part three, titled "Paradoxes," includes "Wisdom of Fools" and "The Strength of Weakness." Half of the book focuses on what Arnold calls "Stepping Stones" toward peace, beginning with "Simplicity" and ending with "Service." Devotional meditations on other topics in this portion include surrender, trust, forgiveness, gratitude, honesty, humility, repentance, and realism. The book concludes with section five, "The Abundant Life," which contains reflections on security, wholeness, joy, action, justice, and hope.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1999
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