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Crossing Your Heart or Fingers

Posted by heyrandy on April 20, 2010

The Tea Party event I attended on April 15th featured a short presentation by someone from the Oath Keepers organization. This man lead the crowd through an oath recital about defending the Constitution and defending the country against all enemies, domestic and foreign. I did not recite the oath.

I don’t know much about the Oath Keepers. The group seems to have appeared suddenly upon the scene of modern politics. Or it could have been around a long time without my knowing about it. It does not matter which is true.

The idea behind Oath Keepers is for its members to take seriously the oath of office they take when the are installed in a public office. It all sounds good. But is it?

Oath are fairly common in our society. They are also commonly ignored. It is quite typical for those sworn in to simply forget about their oath and do what they want. Few get upset by this blithe indifference to the quaint formality of swearing an oath. Can those of you who have actually sworn an oath remember what it said? You may remember one oath: the Pledge of Allegiance.

Oath comes from the concept of covenant. This is an ancient treaty form that was quite common in Old Testament times. In fact, the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy is written in covenant form. The covenants of biblical times had certain characteristics. Ray Sutton in his book That You May Prosper the five main ones: a preamble that stated who were the parties of the covenant, a historical prologue that gave a statement of how the covenant was to be administered, the stipulations of the covenant, the ratifying sign of the covenant, and the naming of successors to the covenant. Oaths are a ratifying sign. These ratifying signs often carried curses for those who disobeyed and blessing for those who obeyed. There is a childish oath often used when I was young: Cross my heart and hopeĀ  to die. This was to attest to the veracity of what one was saying. I guess we all told the truth.

There are many other signs used in the Old Testament to attest to covenants. For example, the rain bow, circumcision, slain animals, and holy days. In the New Testament the sign of the New Covenant Jesus initiated is the cup of communion. (Luke 22:20)

The penalties for violating covenant oath can be severe. We find it is often death. This is brought forth in the use of the divided animals in the covenant God established with Abraham. (Gen. 15) This is the reason for the execution of the man in Numbers 15:32-36. He despised the sign of the covenant and therefore despised the covenant–a capital offense.

Oaths are serious, but is Oath Keepers? It is not yet certain. The news has said nothing of those under oath being punished for failure to keep that oath. You occasionally hear of someone be prosecuted for perjury, but this a difficult crime to prove since it must be proven that the accused deliberately lied.

I will believe Oath Keepers had an effect when I hear of the mass resignation of public officials or of military court martial trials of those who refuse to obey unlawful orders. Until such events occur, it will be difficult for me to take Oath Keepers more seriously than crossing my heart, or my fingers.

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