:: Running from the Thought Police ::

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I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
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:: Monday, April 11, 2005 ::

I Get Letters

And, no, I didn't go out looking for this one.

I noticed your pledge on the left side of your page left out the words UNDER GOD.. is there a reason for this?

Andy R Roszak


Hello Andy,

How'd you get here? I tried looking on your site to figure that out, but nothing there is clickable.

Anywho, the version of the pledge that's in the upper corner of the blog is, as noted, the version used from 1923 to 1954. If you were to click the hyperlink for the date you'd come to a Wikipedia article that discusses the pledge and gives a brief history about it. I put the flag, and the older version of the pledge, up on the blog after reading a story in the Nation about the current state of the controversy over the 1954 version of the pledge. It's well written and I highly suggest you read it. (I had thought that I'd linked to the article earlier, apparently I had not.) For me, one of the more important grafs comes at the end of the third page:

Meanwhile, millions of Americans who are religious but not fundamentalist (one reliable poll says roughly half of us), including Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, are just as edgy as atheists are about the God talk, and they deplore what we might call the Scalia-Falwell position. A Baptist minister in the South recently wrote, echoing TR, "Giving lip service to God does not advance faith, it cheapens it. It takes the language of faith and reduces it to mere political rhetoric. Language that has the power to heal and mend should never be treated so callously." The voices of millions of believers who dislike noisy declarations of faith in the public square and noisy ministers in the White House have not (yet) been heard. The middle ground, where many of us still dwell, as our deist Founders did, wishing to honor both the life of faith and the idea of a secular government, is treated as if it had disappeared.

As a progressive Catholic, I have to agree with the minister's statement. Especially in this day in age, God is used by the GOP and the Christian right to scare up votes in order to do very un-Christian things. The opposition to the removal of the words "under God" isn't an expression of piety, it's merely political maneuvering. I have no right to impose my Christianity upon anyone else; likewise, religious majorities have no right to impose their beliefs on those who do not hold them. Having a child say words he or she doesn't believe does little to foster belief in God or to encourage patiotism for a country that encourages duplicity.

Also, as many people seem to forget, our nation isn't Christian, and it's only arguably Deist. As time goes on, it becomes more and more agnostic. In the sense that we try to run a pluralistic society in this country, that's a good thing - it keeps minorities from being oppressed, and it keeps the fundamentalists from having their fawned-after theocracy. From a civic point of view, the words "under God" were inserted to highlight our differences with a now-vanquished enemy. They no longer serve their original purpose and, since they constitute a state endorsement of religion, they should be removed.

I have the old version of the pledge posted for a couple reasons. First, it's a reminder that the pledge didn't always include the words "under God" and that it doesn't need to retain them. Secondly, it serves as a reminder that patriotism isn't limited to conservatives and the rabid right. You, Andy, are the first reader to actually notice the omission and comment on it in the year that it's been occupying the upper left-hand corner of the blog. If you have further thoughts about this, I'm open to hearing about them. As per normal blog policy, I'll post your email responses to the blog (unless you specifically ask me not to, and then I'll merely summarize). You're also free to leave any further thoughts in the comments for the post itself. Be warned, though, that if you start going off and calling me a Godless atheist or the like that I'll merely ridicule you and then dialectize anything you say further into Pig Latin.

I hope this clears up your question, Andy.

MORE THOUGHTS: Stephen in the comments was disappointed that I didn't go on to extend the comparison to those taken by private groups, such as the Scout Oath. So I'll do that now.

One of the major differences between the Scout Oath (which I've taken three variants of myself) and the Pledge of Allegiance is that membership in Scouting, or any other group, is voluntary. If you're sitting in a classroom as a kid, you're kinda forced to be included in that group. The only way out for a kid is to go to a private school that doesn't say it or be homeschooled, both of which can be prohibitively expensive (through fees or lost income).

Another, more basic, difference is in where the reference to God in both oaths came from. The Scout Oath has always mentioned God, as Scouting has, from its beginning, recognized that a religious upbringing of some/any sort is part of becoming an upstanding citizen. The mention of God in the Pledge came in, as mentioned before, as a means to differentiate ourselves from the Soviet Union. Rather than recognizing the place of reverence due to the Lord, His inclusion in the pledge stemmed from a political move. I'm comfortable with a sincere motive for invoking the Almighty - I'm not comfortable with using Him as a pawn.

:: The Squire 11:31 PM :: email this post :: ::


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