I thought I’d share with you a post I made some time ago on my now-defunct blog Egreggious. Unfortunately, some of the original links are no longer valid, and I believe I have deleted all of these:
I’m not a big fan of the Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t really like that our kids are taught to recite it before they have any real concept of what it means. It’s too much like brainwashing or indoctrination, too much like goose-stepping nationalism.
I think that “allegiance”—in a democracy that’s worthy of the name—should be a passion that is developed through careful reflection. I hope that the Age of Reason has not been entirely abandoned, that people no longer blindly swear faithfulness to a country that they find cruel and unjust, nor require others to do so.
[…] I am annoyed that the correct version of the Pledge of Allegiance contains the words “under God.” If it was merely a matter of seeing these words in historic perspective, it wouldn’t bother me so much. Unfortunately, the fundamentalist nutjobs cling desperately to these two words, as though they prove that the United States is, after all, officially a religious nation.
It is not enough for guys like Dobson and Hannity to believe in their own hearts that a Christian God is smiling down on the USA with a special smile reserved just for this land. In addition, they are obsessed with the idea that the entire American citizenry must unanimously acknowledge that the U.S.A. is—both by design and in practice—Jesusland.
We are reminded again and again of the piety of our Founding Fathers. Never mind that Hannity, if visiting the past, would hardly approve of the Deist leanings of many of the Revolutionary leaders, or of the overt atheism of Thomas Paine. Never mind that the Constitutional framers must have inadvertently left the Bible out of that outdated document. Never mind that much of what motivated those who fought for independence was their desire to be free of the demands of a state-sponsored religion.
I imagine that some Christians feel they are serving their God better by seeking to insert His influence in our governmental affairs. I suppose they feel God is more likely to protect their country if their country in turn “protects” God.
In matters of national security, the Christian Republic of America surely makes a good balance to the Islamic Republic of Iran. In addition, domestic issues such as abortion and gay marriage would no longer be issues if we could finally once and for all simply accept the fact that this is God’s Country.
I find it ironic that Francis Bellamy—the author of the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance (which did not contain the words “under God”)—was a socialist, one who believed that the separation of church and state was good for both church and state, and one who stopped attending church in his retirement.
About 1950, the Hearst newspaper chain, along with the American Legion and the Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus, began a campaign to have the magic words “under God” officially inserted into the Pledge.
In the 1950’s the Fourth Degree believed that a patriotic American should be a person of religious faith and one who opposed communism, socialism, secularism, deism, agnosticism and atheism. In the 1950’s the Knights opposed communism in eastern Europe, Latin America, and Vietnam. It suported Senator Joseph McCarthy is his early campaign against communist subversion in the United States.
By 1952, to most Americans, the Soviet Union was the scariest thing on earth. And it was a country of atheists!
Eisenhower’s 1952 election campaign, which was against the liberal Adlai Stevenson, had the character of a moral crusade and a religious revival. Baptist minister Billy Graham worked closely with “Ike.” He gave Eisenhower a Scofield Bible, thus assuring the public that this President would not be reading a liberal interpretation of the scripture. Patriotism and piety combined to serve as an idealogical weapon against atheistic Communism during his two terms in office, 1953-1961.
Eisenhower understood the importance of a President’s symbolic duties as the nation’s spiritual leader. Withing the Amercial civil religion, the President functions as a high priest in much the same way as the Jewish priesthood di in the Old Testament. During his administation, the Eisenhower-Graham alliance included giving Graham office space in the White House and the State Department giving Graham briefings after each of Graham’s international Christian crusades.
One of the most popular measures during Eisenhower’s administration was his additional to the Pledge of the two words, “under God.”
After signing the legislation into law on June 14, 1954,. Eisenhower stated that “From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty.”
After signing “under God” addition in the Pledge resolution on June 14th, 1954, Eisenhower participated in an air raid drill to help prepare the American people for the possibility of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. On June 15th, 1954, Eisenhower authorized the CIA to overthrow the Socialist government in Guatemala.
Of course, the Pledge is recited these days with the hand over the heart. Originally the pledge had been given with a straight right arm salute, but “Congress apparently was embarrassed by the similarity between the original Flag salute and the Nazi salute.”