The Pledge – Let’s have an open debate on this!

What is the meaning of the pledge of allegiance? Is it appropriate for individuals to reject saying the pledge of allegiance? Furthermore, is it appropriate for individuals to recite such an all encompassing pledge?

These thoughts have been deep on my heart recently. I began wondering about the meaning and purpose of the pledge. I began looking into Biblical and philosophical positions on the pledge and considered what the motivation is for saying it, and whether it is always completely appropriate.

This moral dilemma was nagging at me. Given the dilemma, I did what anyone would do. I turned to Google. In doing so, I cam across an interesting commentary by Jim Perry.  The article is entitled “What I Expect My Child To Learn From Not Saying the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Bellamy SaluteI take words very seriously and feel it is beneficial to have an intellectual conversation about the words we use. If there is a government and societal requirement to recite something, we should continually question our reasons and our motives for doing so. Our government expects us to say this oath before each meeting, at the start of the school day, etc. I feel great harm has been done throughout history because individuals blindly accept things without raising questions on issues such as this.

The pledge may be valid and appropriate, then again, it may not. Culturally, it is completely unacceptable to discuss the relevance and purpose of the pledge in a skeptical manner, but I really feel like we need to have this discussion.

Please comment on your opinions on this after the article. I want each of your opinions on this because I really do want to think through some of this and have that debate. Open discussion is always better than blind acceptance in important matters such as this.

Here are my concerns with the pledge of allegiance:

  1. Blind recitation of any pledge or oath just brings images of gulags, re-education, and dead religions. Reciting pledges simply because a culture or a state demands it only demonstrates one’s tendency to submit to another power. While submission to some may be merited (i.e. submission to God), most submission is just an acknowledgement that another entity has forced you into a place where you must do as you are told or face serious consequences.
  2. A blanket submission to a country diminishes your allegiance to God. As written, the pledge almost seems to imply that our submission to God comes through our submission to our country. While I believe in following the laws when possible, a person who is so tied to the allegiance to a state would have to acknowledge that their true lord may be the state and not God Himself.
  3. If I make a pledge to “the flag of the United States of America and to the republic,” that is a very serious commitment. I do not want to make a commitment that I may have to go back on. It seems more and more that our nation’s laws conflict with what God would direct a person to do. We cannot serve two masters. While we can live in the nation and respect its laws, if laws conflict with our beliefs, as mandated by our creator, it is our duty to oppose them. How can we, on the one hand pledge our allegiance to God, while on the other, pledge to our country without a condition attached to it.
  4. Pledging to a flag seems to border idolatry. I am an evangelical Christian who has a serious concern if I put anything to the level of near deity. My pledge is to God alone, and because of God, my pledge is to build my family in a Godly fashion, to share the message of Jesus, to respect my fellow man, and to live in peace with others. Some may argue that we must “give Caesar what is Caesar’s” but my counter would be that such a strong pledge of allegiance is not Caesar’s to have. That sort of unconditional allegiance is reserved for God alone.
  5. I respect the idea of a republican form of government, of the rights of individuals, and of the honoring of agreements between our fellow man. However, it does a disservice to these ideals when we sum them up into a physical object that we solute to. It diminishes the true power of the American experiment that we embrace.
  6. A pledge to a union that is indivisible is a denial of states rights and of the reality of the situation. The union is only as strong as the commitment that the individual states made to abide by the constitutional intent of the union. When the breakdown of respect for the constitutional agreement takes place, there should be a natural loosening of ties within the union. This is our “miner’s canary.” The only reason this does not occur is that the federal government forces the offended states back into submission. The framers intended a weak union to prevent this from happening. The pledge we recite implies a permanent and strong union, which in my opinion, is designed to force submission of the states to a federal normalcy.
  7. The pledge is specifically targeted at children. While I am all about teaching children our national heritage, I want them to take ownership in our history, not because they blindly recited a pledge over and over, but because they truly thought through the same issues that our founders thought through. Blind recitation makes subjects, intellectual ownership makes citizens.

Once again, I want your opinion. It is something that has been pulling at my heart for a while. I respect the reader’s of this blog. A couple years ago, I would have had a knee jerk reaction of calling such questions treasonous. I believe it not to be so now, but I want input from you. Please reply with any comments, good or bad below. If you do your own blog post or Facebook note, link to it, I want to see it!

I will end by saying this. I love the freedoms that our country is founded on. The founders of our nation were geniuses ahead of their time. They changed the world because they stood on principles, whether or not they were popular. These founders challenged the very fabric of western thought and made their world a better place. They created a nation that respected liberty and justice for all, and for that, we can all be grateful.

By bringing this up for debate, I hope to, in a small way, encourage that sort of continual dialog that helped the founders formulate the logical ideas that created the bedrock for our nation.

7 thoughts on “The Pledge – Let’s have an open debate on this!

  1. First, I hope you can target this Blog to IGH and run against Joe again.

    That said– If I read the pledge in context, that is, what is the BIG IDEA it is communicating, then when I read the “parts”, they don’t challenge me the way your post does. But if I read the PARTS first, it constructs a potential threat to faith.

    I pledge allegiance to:

    flag
    a group of united states
    the republic
    all of which is Under God (recognizing who’s in charge)
    United (indivisible as a nation)
    with Liberty (freedom)
    Justice- (Righteousness)
    for everyone!

  2. In 1954, in response to the perceived threat of secular Communism, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge that is recited today.[4]

    Bellamy commented on his thoughts as he created the pledge, and his reasons for choosing the careful wording:

    “It began as an intensive communing with salient points of our national history, from the Declaration of Independence onwards; with the makings of the Constitution… with the meaning of the Civil War; with the aspiration of the people…
    “The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the ‘republic for which it stands’. …And what does that last thing, the Republic mean? It is the concise political word for the Nation – the One Nation which the Civil War was fought to prove. To make that One Nation idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible, as Webster and Lincoln used to repeat in their great speeches. And its future?
    “Just here arose the temptation of the historic slogan of the French Revolution which meant so much to Jefferson and his friends, ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity’. No, that would be too fanciful, too many thousands of years off in realization. But we as a nation do stand square on the doctrine of liberty and justice for all…”

    Bellamy “viewed his Pledge as an ‘inoculation’ that would protect immigrants and native-born but insufficiently patriotic Americans from the ‘virus’ of radicalism and subversion.”

  3. I find your post intriguing. It it is the same type of question that I try to get all of my undergraduate students to at least ponder.

    In the scope of things, I have no issue with the Pledge of Allegience. I do not, however see any usefulness in ‘blind recitation’ of it. I do not see it as evil, but I simply see no purpose in blind recitation. I believe that children and adults alike should be brought to understand what it means, as well as the history behind it.

    While it does include the words ‘under God,’ it does not explicitly say which god. I understand that when the clause was added, the politicians that supported it were primarily Christian and probably intended it to be the Christian God. They did choose not to explicitly list it as “the Christian God.” In my opinion, the clause is more importantly there as a tool to protect the practice of any religion from the communist push for total secularization. As the Cummunist movement was spreading, one of its first actions was to end all religious practice and our nation’s leaders were using the tools available to them to prevent that from happening. It is one of the protections that allows you to freely live your evangelical lifestyle.

    I am not a theologian, but in response to your assertion that the pledge in some way diminishes your allegience to God, I would simply argue that it is everyone’s personal right to choose the priority in which you hold your allegiences. In the same way that most Americans are members of more than one group, or organization, and occasionally have to chose which to support when conflicts arise, we can also prioritize religion and law (as long as we do it in a civil manner of course.)

    I think we also get into trouble when we talk about the “Founding Fathers” as a single entity. They were a small group of prominent white men from quite diverse backgrounds. While they were all very intelligent people, they had vastly different views on how the nation they were building should look. Through their differences, however, they were all successful in working through their disagreements and creating a compromise document that they were all comfortable signing their names to even if they did not support every word of it themselves.

    It can be argued that they did not all act on Principle alone, but rather worked for what was politically possible at the time. Their over-riding goal was to break the ties to Britain, and in the process, to create the best government they were capable of. Principle got thrown out the window on several issues. I will bring up Thomas Jefferson as a single example. He MAY have (and that is a big may) believed in “liberty and justice for all” in principle, but he still held slaves, and didn’t view African Americans, or Native Americans for that matter, as fitting into that equation. In addition, he also saw no need in allowing women to have political input in the election process. They created a Declaration of Independence and Constitution that they felt would have enough supporters to be successful.

    The Pledge of Allegience does not force you agree with every aspect of our government. It is simply a pledge to support the nation that others have worked so very hard to create and preserve, even if you are working civilly to to change the nation.

  4. To both Jeff’s, great comments. I especially like the comment that you can prioritize your allegiances.

    I certainly am not going to look down on anyone for saying the pledge, if they do it in good conscience, and understand the oath they are proclaiming. I have recited the pledge most of my life without thinking to deeply on the oath itself.

    In talking with a number of people I deeply respect, I have learned that they routinely remove sections of the pledge as they recite. One person, removes the “indivisible” word because he believes the rights of the state supersede the indivisibilness of the union between states. Others said they leave off the phrase, “to the flag” as they see it as idolatry.

    It’s just funny that I have known these people for years. I’ve lived near them, talked with them, and never once did they mention it. This was their personal decision. Not to mention, speaking such things brings the ire of a lot of people who blindly follow and recite 🙂

  5. Hi Terry,

    This is very good. I wholeheartedly endorse your efforts along these lines. I, myself, as a matter of principle and conscious, have refused to say the pledge at all for some time now. Here’s a couple of things I think are pertinent. It sounds like you’ve probably already considered a lot of what I’ll reference, but I’ll give you my take.

    I think it is important to clarify our definitions of “government” vs. “state” vs. “country”. In our (so-called) Constitutional republic the people as a whole are actually the government, not some over-grown, un-Constitutional, bloated, statist bureacy which masquerades as the legitimate governing body of a group of people.

    Similarly, regarding “rendering unto Caesar” it is important to remember, once again, in our system the people, metaphorically speaking, are actually the “King” or “Caesar” (that is, the legitimate, ruling authority).

    As someone once said, “A patriot is a man who loves his country enough to protect it from it’s government (i. e., the state)” In your #2 point (“A blanket submission to a country diminishes your allegiance to God”) you may want to consider replacing the word “country” with the word “state” to indicate the fascist, illegitimate monstrosity that our formally legitimate governmental system has morphed into (although I understand that pledging allegiance to either one of them, however defined, is entirely blasphemous and technically, high treason against the Lord Jesus, his Kingdom, and Gospel).

    Just so you know that your (our) stance is not without historical precedence, I would strongly encourage you to read the story of St. Maurice and the Theban Legion, a group 6,600 Christian soldiers in the Roman army who were commanded to swear ultimate, absolute allegiance to Emperor Maximian in 286 A. D. by publicly proclaiming “Caesar est Dominus!” (“Caesar is Lord”) as well as executing fellow Christians. Note that the Thebans had already demonstrated their fealty to Caesar by faithfully doing their military duty, putting down a rebellion of the Germanic tribes in Gaul (whose ferociousness in battle was so renowned that even the Romans gave them grudging respect). They also took pains to explain that they were not being mutinous or rebellious simply for the sake of resisting his authority, it was a matter of principle and conscious:

    “Emperor, we are your soldiers but also the soldiers of the true God. We owe you military service and obedience, but we cannot renounce Him who is our Creator and Master, and also yours even though you reject Him. In all things which are not against His law, we most willingly obey you, as we have done hitherto. We readily oppose your enemies whoever they are, but we cannot stain our hands with the blood of innocent people (Christians). We have taken an oath to God before we took one to you, you cannot place any confidence in our second oath if we violate the other (the first). You commanded us to execute Christians, behold we are such. We confess God the Father the creator of all things and His Son Jesus Christ, God. We have seen our comrades slain with the sword, we do not weep for them but rather rejoice at their honour. Neither this, nor any other provocation have tempted us to revolt. Behold, we have arms in our hands, but we do not resist, because we would rather die innocent than live by any sin.”

    http://www.bibleprobe.com/theban.html

    I’m sure that you know that at this time in history a well-trained, heavily-armed, battle-tested Roman Legion was not a force to be trifled with. If the Thebans would have chosen to resist by force, it would have been a one heckuva fight. The toll in blood that they might have extracted from their fellow soldiers would have been horrific. Instead, they chose to validate the integrity of their position by simply laying down their weapons and allowing themselves to martyred for the sake of the Gospel.

    I think we should be willing to do no less. I’d like to see a motion to the MNGOP to eliminate the pledge completely at our meetings. Seriously, this would “seperate the men from the boys” as my dad used to say. We would find out very quickly whose allegiance was to Jesus and the Gospel, and whose was to the socialist/statist/fascist regime now making war on us, the Constitution, and the Body of Christ. At the very least, it would be and opportunity to educate and inform some folks.

    Plus, it sounds like a good time to me, as I’ve always been a rebel. The r3VOLution continues!

  6. Terry, Thank you for this post. I wouldn’t have found it lest you had commented on my teaser post. You certainly have covered the idea intelligently. Most of what I was thinking on the subject, you covered…and then some. You have caused me to hold off for a bit more till I can do more research on my conviction. Thank you again!

  7. @Rob, I don’t know why it is, but more and more Christians have been convicted about the same thing recently.

    I was a flag waving, serving-your-country-is-serving-God, pro war American as much as the next guy several years ago.

    God has been really working on me, and convicting me about whom I should serve first, He has been leading me to question the unquestionable more often.

    It is hard to stick your neck out in these matters. After all, we do risk a lot of social “persecution” and ostricization for questioning things like this. Most people simply cannot separate their relationship with God from their relationship with their country. In their minds, a good Christian is one that never questions allegiance to state.

    Good luck on your post over at http://www.dailyhike.wordpress.com/

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