Christians and the Pledge

June 20th, 2011
Image © Stefano Brivio | Flickr | Used under Creative Commons license.

The Pledge of Allegiance is back in the news again. This time it’s because the NBC television network cut the words “under God, indivisible” from a presentation during its coverage of the U.S. Open over the weekend. The negative feedback was so strong that NBC was forced to apologize to viewers during tournament coverage the same day. It seems pretty obvious that the words were left out intentionally, but we don’t know exactly who was responsible for the omission. Was it a decision of the network or one or two employees?

There are people who don’t like the Pledge for a lot of different reasons. Jehovah’s Witnesses say it’s idolatrous. Some atheists like Michael Newdow don’t like the reference to God. Religious left leader Barry Lynn isn’t an atheist, but he’s no fan of “under God” because he says it violates the Establishment Clause in the Constitution. Federal Courts, however, have disagreed with Dr. Newdow and Rev. Lynn, including the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Frankly I’m usually suspicious of people who have a major beef against the Pledge of Allegiance. More often than not, they seem to have an ax to grind against God or against the United States. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not into blind patriotism, but the America-bashing and revisionist history gets tiring. I believe that in spite of all our faults and sins, God has played a major role in the history of our country. We were founded on basic principles of freedom. Those principles are linked to America’s religious heritage-- even though we’ve learned some painful lessons over the years about what “liberty and justice for all” really means.

But my own Christian faith won’t allow me to get completely comfortable with the Pledge of Allegiance, and I say that as a patriot. Here’s why: I don’t like pledging unconditional allegiance to anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t mind pledging conditional allegiance, but that’s not the way the Pledge of Allegiance is written. Anyone who takes the power of their words seriously should examine it carefully. It’s kind of like a blank check. I don’t write blank checks.

When I share my misgivings about pledging allegiance, some folks no doubt view me as a traitor (or something close to it!) Yet what many people don’t realize is that the Pledge of Allegiance didn’t even appear on the scene until 1892, and it was actually written by a socialist. The pledge itself has been changed at least four times, with the latest change happening in 1954. Since the republic managed to survive for over 100 years without the Pledge of Allegiance, I don’t feel we should use it today as a litmus test for patriotism. I’m a huge fan of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But the Pledge? Not so much. Pressuring people in a free society to say things just makes me uneasy.

Question: What do you think of the Pledge of Allegiance? Should Christians recite it?

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