de-Word the Pledge
By Hans Zeiger
On my first
day of kindergarten, I learned to say the Pledge of Allegiance. To the right of
the classroom was a Sesame Street Big Bird poster, and Mrs. Nelson instructed us
to point to Big Bird with our right hand as a reminder of which hand we were
supposed to then place over our hearts. Some of my peers who entered
kindergarten with me that day in 1990 have since renounced the Pledge and refuse
to say it because they hate God or America, or both.
I recall one
day in high school arguing with a girl, who had multiple piercings and tattoos,
about her objections to the Pledge of Allegiance. “It robs me of my
individuality,” she said, “and besides, this is a free country.”
until we remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. The
U.S. Supreme Court has heard the oral arguments in atheist Michael Newdow’s
case alleging that his daughter’s First Amendment rights were violated when
she was required to say “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance at her
California school. The high court will soon decide whether it is appropriate for
school children to acknowledge God while pledging to the flag.
court de-Word the pledge, so to speak, it would become meaningless. For the
liberty, justice, indivisibility, and republican government wherewith we claim
our national identity is grounded in the recognition that it all comes from God.
Jefferson, even as a supposed deist, acknowledged the indelible link between
recognition of God and human liberty. “God who gave us life gave us
liberty,” said Jefferson in his Notes on the State of Virginia. “Can the
liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm
basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the
gift of God?” Jefferson, though
hardly a Christian fundamentalist, was an absolutist on this matter of the
source of liberty.
knew that whether we like it or not, we are one nation under God. That is not
negotiable. We cannot by ignorance do away with God. He cannot be confined to a
foreign land or a distant universe, nor can we rise above God. He is higher than
all of Creation. And whether or not we actually recognize our subjection to the
Almighty is immaterial to the actual fact of God’s sovereignty.
we recognize God very much impacts the security of our own freedom. In order to
obtain the gifts of liberty, we must be receptive to the Giver. It is a premise
undisputed in all of the founding documents of America that God is the source of
freedom. And if God gives liberty, it is to Him that we are responsible as
stewards of that liberty.
freedom, the “under God” question deals with responsibility. From where do
we get our freedom? To whom are we accountable?
It might be
argued that in a pluralistic society, it is perfectly all right for atheists and
agnostics to hold their own negative views about the answers to eternal
questions and the existence of God. But if Jefferson is right, if recognition of
God is the only sure foundation of freedom, spirituality is more than private;
it is intensely public. Faith in
God is the only way we
can survive the common experience of humanity both with the satisfaction of
ordered liberty on earth and hope in eternity.
not be very faithful these days, but Michael Newdow can't speak for us. An
Associated Press poll shows that 9 of 10 citizens support “under God” in the
pledge. That’s 9 of 10 Americans who would disregard the Supreme Court when
they utter the words “under God,” as they no doubt would if the Pledge is
de-Worded. It would be the largest case of civil disobedience in American
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