Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Aliens and oaths

“At any given time, there are around 1,500 aliens on the planet”, said Tommy Lee Jones to Will Smith in Men in Black. Many aliens live in the United States today – some legally and others not – though most are not from the Alpha Centauri system or the Crab Nebula. Immigration is a political hot button topic these days. Of course, all residents of this nation were aliens at one time, even American Indians who likely traveled across Asia and the Bering Strait thousands of years ago. As Tommy Lee goes on to say, “Most of them are decent enough; they’re just trying to make a living.” That is true today – many undocumented visitors in the USA are simply trying to make a better life for their families, while others have decidedly more malevolent intentions. The general public may never know how many potential terrorist attacks have been stopped by analysts, agents and concerned citizens.

The 9/11 hijackers were living as enemies within the borders of this nation. However, it is interesting to note that these devoted followers of their god partook of the sins of Western civilization which they vociferously denounced. For example, in the days prior to the attacks, United Airlines hijacker Marwan Al-Shehhi purchased at least $435 worth of porn videos and toys from the Video Outlet in Deerfield Beach, Florida (from FBI timeline). Mohammad Atta downed $48 in vodka at Shuckums Oyster Bar and Restaurant in Hollywood, Florida, telling the bartender, “Of course I can pay the bill, I’m an airline pilot”. [1] According to the USA Today, “The night before terrorists struck New York and Washington, three men spewed anti-American sentiments in a bar and talked of impending bloodshed at a strip club known as the Pink Pony and Red Eyed Jack's Sports Bar in Daytona Beach. "They were talking about what a bad place America is. They said 'Wait 'til tomorrow. America is going to see bloodshed’”, stated the manager to the FBI. [2]

For those immigrants who truly want to become productive citizens of the USA and assimilate into American life, there are several requirements. Once those are met and the application is filed, the last step to citizenship is for the individual to swear the oath of allegiance. The oath begins with this phrase:
“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…” [3]
When an individual has renounced all other allegiances and sworn loyalty to the United States, he or she then becomes a citizen.

The Bible instructs believers to live as aliens and strangers in this world. Christians should not assimilate into society, engaging in the same behaviors as unbelievers. Peter tells us: “I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” (2 Peter 2:11) In the next verse, he continues, “keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles”. Are we living up to that admonition? It is easy to feel at home, especially in Western societies wherein life is generally good. Do we sometimes love the world and the things of the world as John commands us not to do (1 John 2:15-17). While living as aliens, we do not seek to destroy society through terrorism; rather, we seek to change people from the inside out. To do that, we cannot live as those who have no hope. We need to renounce prior allegiances. And, like an immigrant to the United States who changes allegiance, the Apostle Paul informs that we also have switched: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household” (Ephesians 2:19). How then should we live?

[1] Ian Ball, Telegraph online, “FBI tracks down the Florida lair of flying school terrorists”, 14 Sept 2001,
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[2] USA Today newspaper, “Manager: Men spewed anti-American sentiments”, 14 Sept 2001, < >
[3] U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, “Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America”, updated 8 Mar 2010, accessed 25 May 2010, < >