Under God and Hypocrisy
The recent 9th Circuit decision holding that the use of "under God" in the Pledge is unconstitutional has stirred a hornet's nest of protest. Oddly, the man who brought the suit is now receiving death threats from people who believe in God. Perhaps their Bibles are used to prop up chairs with broken legs.
It's also ironic that some are calling the man a "socialist." The Pledge was actually written by a socialist in the late Nineteenth Century whose goal was to have school children united by a pledge to their new country. This was a time when millions of immigrants from central and Eastern Europe were flocking to America. Fifty years later, during the politically-charged era of the Cold War, "under God" was added.
Others are calling the man a traitor for wanting the Pledge modified. Weren't the Founding Fathers English subjects who spoke against the will of the majority? The patriots would have been hung for treason had they lost.
Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Pat Robertson, and a whole cast of "holy" characters insist that the Founding Fathers were inspired by God. "This is a Christian nation," they bellow. Slavery was Divinely inspired? Beating, whipping, and dehumanizing men and women of color was a manifestation of Christ's compassion? Chaining people, forcing women to be used for sex by white masters, and stealing children from their families to be sold to other plantations was blessed by the Holy Trinity? What about the slaughter of Native Americans? And then there are the many offenses against white women.
Reality check: America was founded on economic liberty. "Taxation without representation" was the Revolutionary battle cry. Even the early explorers to the New World were looking for trade routes or natural resources like cod and lumber to harvest. They weren't searching for a place to pray. Yes, some did come here seeking religious freedom, but that is not the primary reason settlement occurred.
Sure we have "In God We Trust" on our coinage. Those who profess faith the loudest, however, should be appalled. They have allowed God's name to be used on something as crass as currency. In the Bible, Christ challenges the rich man to give away his wealth and follow him.
A U.S. Supreme Court justice once said that God is a "ceremonial deity." Hence this has been used to justify the invocation of God's name in many public places. God is "a ceremonial deity?" It sounds like a temple god in an Indiana Jones movie. But it is this logic that will overturn the 9th Circuit's decision.
God is not all-good, not all-holy, not all-powerful. He's not even Christian. He's secular, ceremonial, and part of tradition. Maybe God's not even a "he." In short, those who make a public showing of their Christian faith have marginalized that which they contend to revere.
These same folks seem to ignore another important New Testament lesson. References abound in the Bible about praying at all times. God is a constant presence. God is not summoned by invoking the Pledge of Allegiance. Nor is He dismissed at its conclusion. Continual silent prayer should be an effort made by every Christian.
This is a nation where almost half its citizens are not registered to vote or refuse to exercise that right on election day. A lazy, mob-mentality-invoking Christian American patriotism rules the day. It's easier to wave the flag, say the Pledge with God's name, and shop 'till you drop than to participate in the democratic process.Ý
My eyes have rolled back in dismay during this period of "renewed" patriotism when I hear some country music. No doubt because of the 9th Circuit's decision we will be forced to listen to more hillbilly tunes professing love of country by people who live in an area where cousins often marry one another, think Jerry Springer is educational television, wouldn't know the difference between the U.S. Constitution and Articles of Confederation, and believe that being an American has more to do with, as one song goes, "getting down on the farm."
Don't get me wrong. I love patriotic songs. But before we start listening to country tunes written to praise the Pledge, play Aaron Copeland's "Appalachian Spring" or "Fanfare for the Common Man." Copeland's music expresses the American soul far better than country lyrics written post 9-11 like, " 'cuz we'll put a boot in your ass--It's the American way."
If we sincerely want a national reawakening of patriotism then let's not argue about the Pledge of Allegiance. Instead, play Copeland and re-read Thomas Paine, Walt Whitman or Emerson. They captured the timelessness of the enduring American spirit.
Philip Chadbourne may be reached at PhilipChadbourne@aol.com. He describes himself as "a Thomas Paine republican who considers himself a reasonable voice in an unreasonable world."
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This story was published on July 3, 2002.