“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.”
You can see a brief history of the Pledge HERE.
In the “reception history” of the Pledge of Allegiance, I would like to note two interesting changes of practice. First, during World War II, even though the tradition had been to give a salute during the pledge, because it resembled the Nazi salute, it was changed to a more devotional right hand over the heart. Second, “under God” was added within the first decade of the Cold War, by President Eisenhower, to differentiate ourselves from the “godless” Communists. Catch that? The pledge of allegiance is not an oath of loyalty to the government (it does not mention the Constitution, which is the highest authority in the land), but rather it is actually is a de facto secular doxology to the g*d of civil religion, thanking g*d we are not like our enemies. That is the lasting legacy of the Pledge of Allegiance: it keeps us blind to how much similar we are to our enemies, and thus we maintain double standards, especially in the area of foreign policy.
When it comes to prayer, should not a person know which g*d she/he is praying to? I just am not sure which God America is under. If one takes a look at its practices, one can hardly say its a god who works for “liberty and justice for all.” As a child in elementary school, I really enjoyed citing the last part of the pledge more any of the others, because liberty and justice sounded like such good things. Yet, I had confused these secular ideas with notions of freedom and righteousness one reads in Scripture. Is liberty primarily about individual rights (as suggested by American tradition) or it liberty about being free to serve and work towards the liberation of others (a Christian understanding)? If it is the latter, the secular doxology that we call only “the Pledge” is the very anti-thesis.
Lastly, the original Pledge’s practice of a military salute normalizes proves that the Pledge’s goal was to make war as THE mode of ethical formation in U.S. American education. In other words, WAR is the great teacher of what a society should look like. This is why nowadays, even though civilian and military culture are separated politically, Presidential candidates are always questioned for their masculinity, and how far they would be willing to go when it comes to defending the country (i.e., pre-emptive attacks, neo-conservativism, bringing democracy to the Middle East). If one recalls in the 1990s, there was this grassroots movement by parents to censor violent movies and videogames, but you don’t hear about such activities anymore; why? Because WAR is that great pedagogue that we receive our morality from. One has to look no further than John Kerry’s campaign as well as George W. Bush’s 1st campaign to see that military records, while having nothing to do with policy making, do matter. While I will deal with the issue of the Presidency in a later post this weekend, for now, I will say that saying the Pledge is an idolatrous act of worship, and we,as Christians, should not feel compelled to recite it.