Last Friday I had the joy and privilege of attending the Naturalization Ceremony for 64 new United States citizens. Actually, I was there first and foremost for Deaconess Grace Rao, born and raised in India, a member of Hope congregation in St. Louis, MO, employed by LCMS World Relief and Human Care, and now a proud citizen of these United States. Here she is, proudly holding her certificate of citizenship in the U.S.
I have heard that many or most people who become U.S. citizens by way of our naturalization process have a great appreciation for our nation, its Constitution, and its way of life. After all, they often come from quite difficult ways of life and harrowing circumstances (war-torn countries, nations rife with poverty and crime), not to mention from governments that may leave much to be desired (e.g. Communist governments, despotic governments), and they actually study, learn, and treasure what it means to become citizens of the U.S.
As I sat in the courtroom at the Federal Courts building, I had to wonder if it might not be healthy for us who are born in this country, us native citizens, to have a "naturalization process" of some kind. Yes, I know there's often the standard citizenship class in grade school, but how many of us are really paying attention at that age? And how many of us would take the "Oath of Allegiance" (below) even as we ponder its details?
In fact, as I waited for the ceremony to begin, I commented to the person next to me, another of Grace's many friends and co-workers present (Grace certainly had the biggest "family" of supporters present :-), "What would happen if we naturally born U.S. citizens had to take the 'Oath of Allegiance'?" We both agreed that more of us native sons and daughters of the U.S. might have a greater appreciation for the nation where God has placed us. We were both delighted that the attorney who addressed the incoming citizens also mentioned the phenomenon that many who are born U.S. citizens too often take for granted the rights and privileges that these 64 incoming citizens now proudly treasure by their free choice.
So, here's something to ponder: How well could we native U.S. citizens swallow and stomach this "Oath of Allegiance" that these 64 new citizens took last Friday? [Commentaries in brackets are mine.]
"I hereby declare on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen [Okay, that part would not apply.]; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law [Wow! Now there's a responsibility of citizenship for you.]; that I will perform non-combatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law [I'm old enough to remember signing up for Selective Service, but one might also think of the draft, and those were for combatant service. What if we were required to report for some other duty to defend our nation?]; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law [Hmm. Could I? Would I?]; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion [This kind of puts criticisms and complaints in a different perspective, doesn't it? And what of certain politicians who would rather see our nation be more like, say, some of Europe's more socialistic countries?]: So help me God." (Printed on the Naturalization Ceremony Program of The United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, December 5, 2008)