I attended a Tea Party last weekend entitled "Throw the Bums Out!" a sentiment to which I am in hearty agreement if by "Bums" we mean all statists not just Democrats. However, the tone of sedition was less than ferocious and I was sorely disappointed with the meeting. I knew things were going to be rather anemic when they started the meeting with the pledge of allegiance.
I thought to myself "You have got to be kidding me, THIS is a Tea Party?!" I have a hard time picturing Jefferson and the boys pledging allegiance to the flag of Britain while penning writings like the "Declaration of Independance" and Paine's "Common Sense"...oh that's right, that's because that would be absurd. I simply stood there while the rest of the hall regurgitated the mantra we have had drilled into memories from a tender age. You may as why didn't you just say the thing?
The pledge issue has been in my mind lately. A recently sought introduction of the pledge of allegiance into my children's Sunday school class has caused me to reevaluate my position toward the pledge of allegiance. After further studying the history of the pledge, its origin and author, the wording, and the effects of the practice itself, I find the entire practice within the church and without to be simply antithetical to liberty and true patriotism.
I will confine myself to the practice in general in my evaluation. I will start by asserting that I don't know how a person who holds to a conservative political philosophy can defend this exercise in devotion to the state. When I think of "conservative" I think of a philosophy of small limited government, a philosophy that is skeptical toward government promises and averse to government expansion.
I. The Pledge's Marxist Origins
The original pledge was authored by Francis Bellamy, who was an unabashed socialist "Christian" minister. I put Christian in quotes as Bellamy was eventually defrocked and removed from the pulpit because he was preaching socialism rather than the gospel of Christ dying in the place of sinners. With sermons with titles like "Jesus the socialist" it is no wonder he would be accused of not preaching the gospel.
Francis Bellamy had a cousin with whom he shared the socialist dream for America, Edward Bellamy, who wrote a book entitled "Looking Back" in which the main character falls asleep and wakes up in the year 2000 where he finds a new America, one that is a socialist utopia. Francis saw the pledge of allegiance as a way to get socialist ideas into the minds of the people.
"Francis Bellamy said that one purpose of the Pledge of Allegiance was to help accomplish his lifelong goal of making his cousin’s socialist fantasy a reality in America. He further stated that the "true reason for allegiance to the Flag" was to indoctrinate American school children in the false history of the American founding that was espoused first by Daniel Webster and, later, by Abraham Lincoln." (Tom Dilorezo "Pledging Allegiance to the Omnipotent Lincolnian State" )
The fertile soil of the mind of a Marxist agitator is constantly hatching new statist ideas and Bellamy's was the Marxist seedbed in which the pledge of allegiance sprouted. This is by no means inconsequential and we can see in the wording of the pledge itself the ideas of collectivism.
Pictured to the right is what was known as the "Bellamy salute", this is how the pledge was done prior to WWII, they changed it after WWII to the hand on the bosom for a rather obvious reason. The Nazi (National Socialist) salute and devotion to the state and the pledge looked alike because they are in the same ideological family. The Hitler Jugend engaged in nearly identical practices as the American children pictured.
The original version of the pledge written by Bellamy read as follows:
“I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”
The smuggling in of collectivist ideology is in the phrase "one nation, indivisible". To someone who holds to the Jeffersonian understanding of states rights, or the 10th amendment, or the right of individual states to nullify federal laws and even to leave the union, the pledge should be seen as problematic. The pledge really represents the Lincoln idea of the Union, one in which states (people) are under the rule of the central government. The states are merely a convenient was of dividing and governing the collective nation.
II. The Pledge's Un-American Content
The interesting thing is that this notion of an "indivisible" nation wasn't the view of the founders, the states of Virginia, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts all upon ratifying the constitution added the disclaimer that they could withdraw from the union if they saw fit at anytime. Furthermore, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison authored the "Virginia and Kentucky resolves" in 1798 in response to the John Adam's alien sedition act, which criminalized criticism directed to the government. These resolves spurred on state nullification of the sedition act and also argued that secession may need to occur.
That is where the south got the notion of secession from, it wasn't something they just made up out of nowhere, it was part of the nations founding, both at the ratification of the constitution and at the original secession of the 13 states from Britain.
As I have alluded, this myth of the perpetual indivisible union was most forcefully propagated by Abe Lincoln. That really is what the war for Southern independence was about, states rights or self government. At least that's what the southerners thought. Slavery wasn't part of the equation until halfway through the war when Lincoln suddenly started talking like an abolitionist. Take Lincoln's Gettysburg address, which one of the speakers at the Tea Party quoted proudly in its entirety by memory as if this is what America is all about:
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
[...] It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
I quote this in context of a discussion over the pledge as this displays the idea of the collective Union. This is also where the phrase "One Nation Under God" comes from, which was amended to the pledge in the 1950's. H.L. Mencken in commenting on the Gettysburg address states:
"But let us not forget that it [the Gettysburg address] is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it. Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination—"that government of the people, by the people, for the people," should not perish from the earth.
It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i.e., of the people of the States?
The Confederates went into battle free; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and veto of the rest of the country—and for nearly twenty years that veto was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely more liberty, in the political sense, than so many convicts in the penitentiary."
Mencken's assessment is spot on. The "Civil War" was the triumph of the central government in Washington over self government of the people. It is this that is reflected in the pledge's talk of an "indivisible" one nation. It also should be noted that the defeated southerners lived in a police state and had to take an oath of allegiance to the Union in order to vote again. Bellamy stated that this oath the defeated southerners had to take also inspired the pledge.
It is interesting as a side note, that the presidents and policies that both establishment parties usually praise and revere have historically been the most abusive with power and now have the most patriotic myths built around them, not to mention Greek temples to house their marbled likeness. Roosevelt and the New Deal is another example.
It is rather pathetic to me given what was just stated to hear these silly debates about what should be in the pledge, when in reality the whole thing should be tossed out as a Marxist tool of indoctrination.
III. Christians and the State
Furthermore, how can we as Christians swear allegiance to a state that is engaged in countless immoral actions? How can I as a Christian give allegiance to a government that sanctions and funds the abortions of babies, engages in wars of aggression around the world killing hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq alone, a government that tortures people made in the image of God, threatens to conscript my children and send them to kill in a far away land, and that steals from us through inflating the currency, to name a few things. How can a moral God fearing Christian countenance these things, nonetheless give "allegiance" to a government engaged in them?
(pictured to the left is a Hitler youth propaganda poster, it reads "Youth Serving the Leader" and "All 10 year olds in the Hitler youth"...this is a form of conscription. Also note the same look of devotion in the girl's eyes as those raising the American flag in the first picture at the top of the page.)
The early Christians in the Roman empire were called "Atheists" because they believed in allegiance to the one true God at the exclusion of all other allegiances. This was seen in the Christian's protest to the cult of the emperor, all Christians had to do was to make a vow of loyalty to the Roman state, and wave incense before an image of the emperor. They wouldn't do it.
After all what's the big deal? Just say "Caesar is lord" and burn some incense and be on your way. The early Christians had integrity that is sorely lacking in much of the church today. Having become lackeys to the Republican party, modern Christians have degenerated into vocal supporters of aggressive wars and torture.
It has been a source of no little grief for me to hear my brothers support patently immoral actions like torture, because Dick Cheney says we need to do it to keep us safe and he has an (R) next to his name. If we are willing to stoop to endorsing the base means of torture, preemptive war, and political assassinations by predator drones in Pakistan (a nation we are "not at war with"), what in reality separates us from the supposed terrorists?
We have lost the moral high ground.
Also, does not our Lord call us to "Love our enemies"? If you say things like that you can expect most evangelicals to snort and scoff at applying the words of Jesus to a real life situation like torture. It's just a nice platitude, maybe loving my enemies applies to a jerk mail man or the guy at work I don't care for, but to apply it to those guys with towels on their heads is just crazy talk.
Given the above reasons I simply can not say the pledge of allegiance. Its author was a Marxist who saw the pledge's implementation in the schools as a step towards he and his cousin's socialist utopia in America. The pledge is NOT an exercise in patriotism, which is love of one's country, it's an exercise in love and devotion to the state.
Next is the view of the United States contained within the pledge, an indivisible nation. An indivisible United State (the singular "State" is intentional) is indeed what we have today, and any mention of states rights, nullification of federal laws, and even secession are seen as extremist crazy talk. Thanks, Mr. Bellamy job well done.
Finally, how can we give allegiance to a state that engages in immoral acts at home and abroad? Granted, Christians are called to be obedient to laws of the state but we certainly are not called to support every single thing the state does, and thus the state is not to receive our unwavering allegiance, so why give it?
I honestly ask that of someone reading this supports the pledge...Why? Why is the pledge a good thing in a supposedly free society?