The Pledge of Allegiance: Is It Patriotic?

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
~ Samuel Johnson

When questioning a patriotic symbol, one treads on dangerous ground. People immediately assume that the questioner has some perverse agenda, but in this case my motives are pure and rational and sound. I have repeated the Pledge of Allegiance thousands of times in school, at vacation Bible school, and at various civic and business meetings. Only recently, however, did I begin to pay attention to what I was proclaiming every time I recited the Pledge. I began to ask questions, then I discovered why the Pledge was written.

In the light of the events of 11 September 2001, the Pledge of Allegiance has become a national mantra which is practically demanded of every citizen. President Bush requested that on a particular day all school districts join together in reciting the Pledge. The Madison, Wisconsin school board had the idea of putting the President's request up for a vote. The results were 2-to-1 against a unison recitation. The citizens in Madison are now being sounding thrashed by a great number of people for their "unpatriotic action. Voting itself appears to be out of fashion if the results don't suit the prevailing mood of those outside the voting district. And patriotism it seems is acknowledged only in reciting the Pledge.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a defrocked Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy. He was pressured into leaving his church in Boston because of his extreme socialist views. Bellamy was first cousin of famous American socialist Edward Bellamy, who died in 1898. Edward Bellamy is best known for lending his name to informal socialistic associations around the U.S. (Bellamy Clubs) and for writing a novel, Looking Backward, a novel in which a man falls asleep in Boston and wakes up in the year 2000 to find a socialist utopia. After Edward's death, Francis took it upon himself to revise, edit, and write an introduction for future editions of his late cousin's works.

The Pledge was first published in The Youth's Companion, a leading family magazine of the day. As chairman of the National Education Association's committee of state superintendents of education, Bellamy prepared the program for the public schools' quadricentennial celebration for Columbus Day in 1892. He structured this public school program around a flag raising ceremony and a flag salute “ his "Pledge of Allegiance": "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Later that year (1892), school children first recited it at the dedication of the World's Fair in Chicago. The "Columbian Exposition in Chicago celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World. According to Bellamy, the occasion for his drafting the pledge was his desire to establish Columbus Day as a national holiday and to create a ˜universal doxology' for all Americans.

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.  (Congress added the words "under God in 1954.)

Question 1: Since a "doxology is a hymn of praise to some god, what god is being praised? Bellamy's socialist ideology negates any possibility of it being the Lord Jesus Christ. The god of socialists is the state, thus the "doxology is praising the monolithic state. The recitation of the Pledge by a Christian is therefore a specific act of idolatry.

Question 2: What exactly am I pledging? I am pledging my "allegiance. Although the argument may be made that for a watered down definition, "allegiance has the primary meaning of "devotion or loyalty; duty as a subject to a sovereign king. (The United States government is not a monarchy, but it definitely has asserted its sovereignty against other nations and against God Himself as the courts have excluded Christ from any tax-supported entity or event.) Allegiance in its highest form is a word of solemn contract. It is a word of absolute submission. It is a word which ought not to be taken lightly. As a Christian, the only One I can truly pledge my allegiance to is the One who has bought me with the price of His own blood, Christ Jesus.

Question 3: Why pledge? A pledge is a promise or agreement which normally includes a reciprocal benefit. If I pledge my car to the bank, I expect some cash in return. During my wedding, I pledged faithfulness to my wife and in return she pledged the same. But when I pledge my allegiance to the flag, devotion and submission is pronounced while nothing specific is promised in return. Some might say that the return is the benefits of national citizenship. What does that include?¦cradle- to-grave security?¦protection from evil-doers?¦the right-to-life of the unborn?¦the right to bear arms?

Question 4: What did Bellamy mean by "one nation? While the general public thinks in terms of the common definition of nation as "a body of people recognized as a unit by virtue of their historical, linguistic or ethnic links, Edward and Francis had another concept in mind. The Oxford English Dictionary (19th century edition) has a separate entry for "two nations defined as "...two groups within a given nation divided from each other by marked social inequality; hence one nation, a nation which is not divided by social inequalities (emphasis in original). Francis Bellamy in his sermons and lectures and Edward Bellamy in his novels and articles described in detail how the middle class could create a planned economy with political, social and economic equality for all. That is the "one nation that is proclaimed in the Pledge.

Question 5: Why use the word "indivisible? Bellamy also gave an account of what went through his mind as he picked the words of his Pledge: "The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the ˜republic for which it stands.' ...And what does that vast 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.

The concept of a government which cannot be divided is antithetical to Scripture and to political theory. During the first explicit, recorded civil organization in history, Moses appointed rulers over thousands, hundreds and tens. He divided the civil authority. Our patriot fathers in 1776 properly exercised the principle of division in government, otherwise we would still be part of the British Empire. The Southern Nation attempted to exercise the principle in 1861, but were prevented by military subjugation. In recent years, the states of the Soviet Empire have used the principle of division to declare their independence. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, James Madison and Patrick Henry would have never espoused a "one nation, indivisible.

Bellamy does deserve credit for ably employing the catechetical principle of repeating a simple statement in order to embed it in a person's memory. Inculcating foundational principles in the minds of children is a sound and effective tool of learning “ for good or evil. Unfortunately, millions of Americans have been converted to concepts alien to our Declaration of Independence and Constitution simply by the repeated recitation of a statement to which they have given no thought.

The Pledge of Allegiance has produced a citizenry which embraces a blind commitment to a national government that conducts itself more as an empire than a republic as it continues to chip away at the liberty Americans once enjoyed. Americans have embraced nationalism, a loyalty to the government rather than to the principles of government.

Patriotism is loyalty to true principles, to honour, to duty, to liberty, and to love of our homeland and people. Governments come and go. Empires rise and fall. Principles remain. True patriotism is not in the words you say, but in the principles you will live and die for.

It is doubtful that the Pledge of Allegiance can be defended as promoting the Constitution. It is doubtful that the Pledge can be defended as promoting biblical concepts. It is concluded that the Pledge certainly does not embrace patriotism.

 Author: David O Jones