Look, I have to admit as an evangelical Christian who does not live in America, I just don't fully understand the huge fuss it is causing.
Here is the text of the pledge:
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.There's a few things that you need to realise about this whole kerfuffle:
- The original oath was written by Francis Bellamy in 1892. He was a Baptist minister and a socialist.
- Originally those making the pledge were expected to make the Bellamy Salute, a hand gesture invented by the author. Unfortunately, it was identical to the Hitler Salute which everyone saw giving Adolf during world war 2. It was replaced by the "right hand over the heart"
- The original text was I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Notice that "flag of the United States of America" and "under God" were not part of the original oath.
- "Flag of the United States of America" replaced "my flag" so that immigrants could not pledge allegiance to the flag of their previous country. That change occurred in 1924.
- The US congress officially recognised the pledge in 1942.
- In 1954 the "under God" phrase was added. It was added mainly due to the belief that Communism was essentially Atheistic and incompatible with American values.
- President Eisenhower, after signing the bill to add the "under God" phrase, stated From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty.
- The First Amendment of the US Constitution declares Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
- After recent complaints from a number of people who object to the "under God" phrase, the ACLU has sponsored legal action to prevent school students from reciting the pledge of allegiance in its present form - arguing that the "under God" phrase breaches the first amendment.
I have to point out a few things as an outsider here. The first is that the pledge itself is not a prayer and so therefore cannot be defined as such. We can tell that it is not a prayer because the pledge does not end with "Amen". The fact that God is recognised in the pledge does give it religious significance but does not make it a prayer, since the pledge is being directed towards the flag and the nation it represents. A prayer is directed to God, or towards other figures in other religions. The pledge is therefore not a religious activity.
Secondly, I have to concur with the ACLU that the phrase "under God" does violate the separation of church and state. Since the pledge itself is officially recognised by the US government, and because the phrase can clearly be understood to mean the God of Christians, there exists a problem.
The only simple solution I can think of in order to clear up the constitutional problems is to revert the phrase to its pre-1954 text and remove "under God". However, that's not going to please anybody, and I would guesstimate that the majority of Americans would find that unacceptable.
Another solution would be to have "under God" put in brackets so that the millions of Americans who do believe in God can recite this part, while those who choose not to can opt not to say it. This is a compromise solution and probably won't make the ACLU happy since it still appears to favour one particular religious belief.
Changing the pledge may be anathema to many Americans, but we need to remember that the pledge has been changed before, and has only been officially recognised since 1954. These are precedents.
Many Christians see this issue as one of the battles fought in the "culture war". I personally don't see why it is so important, but that is because I am not American - I therefore cannot see it. It is certainly one disadvantage that I have.
Neverthless, despite the problems this pledge may have on my American Christian bretheren, I would urge them wholeheartedly to pledge their total allegiance not towards their country, but towards God. I'm not saying the pledge contradicts this, but I am saying that there are more important things for Christians to fight for.
Please leave comments... I will endeavour to nicely answer any angry queries you might have in response to this article!
From the Department of Wha's Happnin?
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.