Friday, September 16, 2005

"I Pledge Allegiance . . ."

If you are a conservative, evangelical Christian and fellow Republican you are probably about to get angry. So, read the quote by Jefferson at the top of this blog. Okay, now read it again. We now have another federal judge who has said that it is a violation of our constitution for a school operated by government to require the students attending that school to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I happen to agree! Why? Because our constitution makes it clear that the government should not engage in a coercive exercise where people, in this case children, who are essentially under the control of government employees must acknowledge God. From 1892 to 1954 the words “under God” were not part of the Pledge. Back then we were not atheist and we were not “kicking God out” of anything as those currently going into irrational convulsions assert.

Here's some history: The pledge was written in 1892 by the socialist Francis Bellamy. He devised it on the occasion of the nation's first celebration of Columbus Day. Its wording omitted reference not only to God but also, interestingly, to the “United States.” It said, "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The key words for Bellamy were "indivisible," which recalled the Civil War and the triumph of the Union over states' rights, and "liberty and justice for all," which was supposed to strike a balance between equality and individual freedom. By the 1920s, reciting the pledge had become a ritual in many public schools. The campaign to add "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance was part of the flood of religiosity of the early 1950’s. It's unclear precisely where the idea originated, but one driving force was the Catholic fraternal society the Knights of Columbus. In April 1953, Rep. Louis Rabaut, D-Mich., formally proposed the alteration of the pledge in a bill he introduced to Congress. The "under God" movement didn't take off, however, until the next year, when it was endorsed by George M. Docherty, the minister of the Presbyterian Church in Washington that Eisenhower attended. In February 1954, Docherty gave a sermon - with the president in the pew before him - arguing that apart from "the United States of America," the pledge "could be the pledge of any country." He added, "I could hear little Moscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag with equal solemnity." Perhaps forgetting that "liberty and justice for all" was not the norm in Moscow, Docherty urged the inclusion of "under God" in the pledge to denote what he felt was special about the United States. The ensuing congressional speeches offered more proof that the point of the bill was to promote religion. The legislative intent of the 1954 act stated that the hope was to "acknowledge the dependence of our people and our government upon the Creator,” and to “deny the atheistic and materialistic concept of communism." In signing the bill on June 14, 1954, Flag Day, Eisenhower delighted in the fact that from then on, "millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim in every city and town the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty."

This had not always been the case, however. In 1943 Chief Justice Robert Jackson wrote the following when the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to force school children to recite the Pledge: “Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard. There is no mysticism in the American concept of the State or of the nature or origin of its authority. We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Look, the First Amendment isn’t rocket science. The balance between the Establishment clause and the Free Exercise clause depends on government neutrality. Government, and public schools ARE government, cannot be hostile to religion, and they cannot endorse religion. Agree or disagree, as least you have some facts and historical perspective.

And, one more thing. Should Christians pledge allegiance to any earthly flag or government or nation anyway? Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Caesar (government) may have your money, but only God is entitled to your allegiance and full devotion.


Ray said...

Ahh, it is a joy to find another Christian who actually knows the history of this whole thing.

I am weary of the 'traditions of men' somehow becoming sacrosanct, while the true realities of the gospel are regarded as merely suggestions which may or may not be followed depending upon the climate of the day.

Same with prayer in school! I believe that children should be allowed to pray in school, but there should not be a law that forces one to do so...

The family has, in many cases, abdicated their role, and now wants the state to inculcate values into their children for them; a bad concept all the way around. Maybe parents should spend soem time with their children teaching them the value os citizenship and the tenets of their faith etc.

If there is a community that wants to pray before a sporting event and they are agreed upon it, then let them (this falls on the other side of the coin, where the state shall not forbid the practice of religion.) That is my other beef, that there are those, such as Mr. Newdow, who don't simply want to remove the pledge, but want to create a completely secularist society, devoid of any religion. I also feel that this is wrong; forbidding the practice, and public display of religion.

However, and I will wrap up with this: Those who do not wish to practice, or allow the practice of Christian religion need to not expect to be on holiday during the Christian holidays that have been set up. What burns me is that I would like to take Yom Kippur and Shavuot off, but my employer doesn't see them as holidays... So, I understand the frustration of those outside the pale of the Christian element, but they also reap the benefits of holidays etc.

that last part is a small gripe on my part, but one that can be exasperating!

Charles North said...

Ray - you're reading early. Good thing I stayed up so late last night working on this post. The irony is that we are one of the most religious countries on earth, and yet our government is secular. God is not mentioned at all in the constitution. Europe, on the other hand, has state churches and church taxes and volumes of "ecclesial law," but their churches are empty on Sundays. Go figure?

Ryan said...

Nice post Charles. I don't understand all these doom and gloom people who think that the world is about to end if "under God" is removed from the pledge.
Yes, it is true that we as a nation are under the rule sovereign creator of the universe. It is however pie in the sky that all Americans submit to His will. We only have to look at how the average Christian conducts themselves to know that we do not submit to the Almighty.
How ironic that "one nation under God" is now (another) source of division in our country.

Travis Stanley said...

Great post, Charles. I actually agree with you! Thanks for the history lesson. I haven't said the pledge of allegiance in several years now. I'm a fan of the United States, but my allegiance is not mine to pledge. I have often worried about how Marti and I will handle the whole "pledge" thing when we have children in school. I don't want them to say it, but I don't want to force my ideologies on them and I don't want them to be considered "dorks" and "terrorists" just because their daddy won't let them say the Pledge.

I say we just get rid of the pledge all together in schools, right along with prayer. Pledging is really a form of prayer, just to a secular god? Maybe those who want to say the pledge everyday could show up fifteen minutes before school, meet around the flagpole, and have a special "Pledging Meeting." Perhaps call it the "Fellowship of Pledging Athletes", or something like that.

Charles North said...

Thanks Travis. I think you and I probably agree on a lot of things - a few pesky political concerns aside. I'll be talking about the "Give to Caesar" text in class this Wed. night. I wonder what the Baker Heights folks will say?

Ray said...

Not a lesson on TAXES? I did that lesson a few months ago... Some unhappy people, who simply could not argue with Scripture...

I find it interesting that, when you do a study on that area, what is actually taught in the Bible flies in the face of some of the more, well-known, conersvative groups...

I wish you the best!

Charles North said...

Thanks Ray. I'll let you know how it goes.

Justin said...

Hey Charles,
Justin here -- finally doing some belated catchup on the posting of the North family.

I will say this - you are certainly not afraid to throw unconventional posts out there. This is a great post...its an interesting issue. I agree with you 100% conceptually, and I believe that there is simply no way to argue that "under God" doesn't promote the sort of mixing of Church and State that is usually bad.

Personal Development said...

I am sure you have heard the song "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club but have you ever given much thought to its meaning? While on Earth, you are living in a world of reincarnation which is governed by the law of karma. Karma begins to propel you as Soul on a personal journey through the universe. Karma ends when you have reached enlightenment and fully realise that this physical reality and the Universe itself is just an illusion. When you reach a state of knowingness that there is but One all pervading essence and that essence or consciousness is You!
So what is Karma and how does it work? While in the illusion you have a soul. This soul lives past, present, and future lives. To grow in love, joy, and awareness, you reincarnate into a series of physical bodies to experience different existences. This road leads to the experiences of being both sexes, all races, religions, and ethnic types throughout many lifetimes.
Karma in its simplicist terms can be described by the biblical statement "as you sow, so also shall you reap". Karma is the principle of cause and effect, action and reaction, total cosmic justice and personal responsibility. It brings 'good' experiences as well as 'bad' - a debt must be repaid and a blessing rewarded.

A more indepth esoteric look at karma gives us the following distinctions: Sanchita Karma: the accumulated result of all your actions from all your past lifetimes. This is your total cosmic debt. Every moment of every day either you are adding to it or you are reducing this cosmic debt. Prarabdha Karma: the portion of your "sanchita" karma being worked on in the present life. If you work down your agreed upon debt in this lifetime, then more past debts surface to be worked on. Agami Karma: the portion of actions in the present life that add to your "sanchita" karma. If you fail to work off your debt, then more debts are added to "sanchita" karma and are sent to future lives. Kriyamana Karma: daily, instant karma created in this life that is worked off immediately. These are debts that are created and worked off - ie. you do wrong, you get caught and you spend time in jail.
As a soul, you experience a constant cycle of births and deaths with a series of bodies for the purpose of experiencing this illusionary world gaining spiritual insights into your own true nature until the totality of all experiences show you Who you really are - the I AM! Until you have learned, you will find that pretending that the rules of karma do not exist or trying to escape the consequences of your actions is futile.
Although it may often "feel" like punishment, the purpose of karma is to teach not to punish. Often the way we learn is to endure the same type of suffering that we have inflicted on others and also rexperience circumstances until we learn to change our thinking and attitudes.

We are all here to learn lessons as spiritual beings in human form. These lessons are designed to help us grow into greater levels of love, joy, and awareness. They teach us our true nature of love. Where we do not choose love, show forgiveness, teach tolerance, or display compassion, karma intervenes to put us back on the path of these lessons. Quite simply, the only way to achieve a state of karmic balance is to be love.
Before you incarnated into your present personality, you agreed to put yourself in the path of all that is you need to learn. Once you got here, you agreed to forget this. Karma is impersonal and has the same effect for everyone. It is completely fair in its workings and it is predictable - "do onto others as you would have them do unto you" is a way to ensure peace and tranquillity in your own life as well as the lives of those you come into contact with. The law of karma is predictable - "as you sow, so shall you reap" what is done to you is the net result of what you have done to others!
Karma gives you the opportunity at every moment to become a better person than you are and to open up to the realization that you are the master of your own fate.

The goal of karma is to give you all the experiences that you need to evolve into greater levels of love, joy, awareness, and responsibility. Karma teaches that you are totally responsible for the circumstances of your life. They keep you on the straight and narrow until you have mastered your vehicle and can ride freely on your own. Once you understand that you are the master of your own circumstances and that everything you experience is a direct result of your past actions due to your thinking and emotional responses you can overcome its seeming negative effects by creating only 'good' karma.
Karma forces us to look beyond ourselves (oneness) so that we can see ourselves as we truly are Whole, Complete, at One with everything. Once we truly understand ourselves, we can see our divinity and our unity with all life.
Karma drives us to service. Love means service. Once you accept total responsibility for your life, you see yourself as a soul in service to God. Once you do, you become a fully realized being, allowing God to experience the illusion through you.
Belief in karma and an understanding of its workings will lead you to a life of bliss. Only your own deeds can hinder you. Until the time comes when we release ourselves from our own self-imposed shackles of limitation and fully understand who and what we are we will live under the mantle of karma. So until that day why not create some wonderful experiences for ourselves by "doing onto others, as we would have them do unto us". subliminal