Sunday, July 06, 2008

Why DO we say the Pledge of Allegiance?

It's not a secret that I'm not a big fan of pledging allegiance to the flag. Don't get me wrong, I love my country and appreciate that I live here in the United States - well, at least most of the time.... However, I pledge allegiance to God. Period. But, beyond that - it's time to lose those rosy glasses and look with new eyes at the pledge itself; where it came from, what it was and its reason for being. So before you get all upset that I don't agree with mandatory recitation of the pledge, especially in schools where the kids don't even understand the words or concepts anyway, and think that I have betrayed my religious upbringing (because it seems nationalism, patriotism and religion go hand in hand - and please don't send me hate responses, because I do believe patriotism has its place) consider this article by Paul M. Howey. You may be surprised where this untouchable and often fought about tradition started.

Is it time to retire the Pledge of Allegiance?

By Paul M. Howey
July 6, 2008

Independence Day—a perfect time for some independent thinking. On this all-American day of apple pie, parades, and fireworks, what better time to question why we pledge "allegiance" to a flag.

We say the Pledge of Allegiance a lot, mechanically mouthing the words without truly understanding them or their history. Are we deluding ourselves into believing this somehow renders us more patriotic?

At the risk of sounding like Cliff from "Cheers," here are some little-known facts, Normie.

Conservatives are up in arms about presidential candidates wearing flag pins. I'll bet precious few of them, however, are aware the Pledge of Allegiance was written by a left-winger, a socialist even, and that corporate profits were the sole motivating factor behind it.

Francis Bellamy penned the pledge in 1892. Bellamy was a Baptist minister, a Christian socialist, and an extreme nationalist whose sermons ("Jesus the Socialist," for one) eventually got him booted from the church.

He then landed a job with Youth's Companion, a magazine that also happened to be in the business of selling American flags. The magazine's owners decided they needed to boost flag sales. They came up with a marketing gimmick.

They engineered a deal with the National Education Association to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus landing in the New World. By agreement, all the schools in the country were to have flag ceremonies and, naturally, they would all need to have flags. To cement the deal, they had Bellamy write the following pledge that youngsters all over the country would be required to say:

"I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

"One nation indivisible" was a phrase Bellamy used to drive home the fact that states had no inherent right of secession. The Civil War was still fresh on the minds of Americans, and the Northerners wanted to be sure the Southerners understood the new rules.

Socialist that he was, Bellamy had wanted to include "equality for all" in his pledge, but he knew the states' superintendents of education—who generally did not support equality for women or for African-Americans—would object. That could hurt flag sales (the pledge was, after all, just an advertising ploy meant to peddle more flags), and so he dropped the idea.

The last change to the pledge came in 1954. In response to the "Red Scare" of the McCarthy era, the words "under God" were added, supposedly to show that we rejected the godless precepts of Communism. Patriotic atheists and agnostics were not consulted.

Sadly, the Pledge of Allegiance was but an ad campaign created to bolster a corporation's bottom line. Perhaps worse, it was worded to be politically expedient rather than politically correct.

We're about the only nation to pledge allegiance to a flag, and we do it without even understanding why we do so. Perhaps it's time to consider retiring this anachronistic practice, or at least finding a meaningful replacement.


GoteeMan said...

Like many things, I think it depends on point of view. Similarly, Christmas (as we celebrate it here in the USA), Easter, and other holidays and events came out of surprising starts, particularly the traditions, symbolism, etc.

Personally, I do have a pride and love for the country in which we live. It has its share of problems, and often the freedoms of others may infringe on our nerves, but I still love it. Of course I love my Lord more, but loving my country does not diminish that at all.

I don't mind my kids learning the pledge. I see allegiance to this country as being part of yielding to the authority and laws of the land, especially in an age of lawlessness, treachery and treason. I also support the rights of others to refuse or object, as that is also part of the freedoms our nation provides.

With regard to holidays and occasions, our family celebrates whenever we can, whatever the occasion. Being together is the thing - relationship. We don't even have to have holidays for it, but it makes it easier since most of us get time off work then. Really stinks to just see each other at weddings and funerals... =)

Want to know why most churches today use GRAPE JUICE for communion instead of wine? A little research will reveal that it was a baptist guy during prohibition, who used it as a MARKETING PLOY to see his grape juice - his last name WELCH... yet I still gladly participate in communion, and I have no problem buying grape juice at the market.

So what if a person makes a living off of a song, a pledge, a product or whatever - does that diminish the value of the product or its usefulness? I guess that's up to the consumer...

Our country, most ministries, people and just about every aspect of life are frought with abuses, misuses and merchandising... doesn't stop me from enjoying them and loving them, though... Truth is - very few things have "perfect" beginnings. I think it really has more to do with what we make of them in our own hearts that matters...
so we should each have the freedom to enjoy or abstain, comment or remain silent... to live out as best we see fit, according to our own loves and beliefs...

I think that makes it a pretty cool corner of the planet to live in...

Just my humble opinion...


GoteeMan said...

I stand corrected - he was Wesleyan Methodist - here is an article on him...

he invented the process for preventing fermentation, was nearly the sole reason for the change to juice from wine during the "temperance movement", and profited greatly from it...

interesting, isn't it? sometimes it's fun to dig into why things happened or changed historically.

Thanks for the post, got me really thinking about alot of things...



gerbmom said...

Hey Jeff,
Interesting about grape juice and communion. I just figured it was a Baptist thing and the issue of alcohol....
Good points about the holidays and thanks for your thoughts on the pledge. Just because I have issues with the pledge doesn't mean I don't respect the flag and what it stands for. I still fly it, I still stand at parades - again, out of respect. I just don't think it it sacrosanct.
And like I said, I still love the country I live in. I just have issues with it at times, just as one does with anyone/anything one loves.
Hope you had a nice fourth. We did - cook out with friends and we went to the fireworks. I would have gone to the parade too - I enjoy them, but we were out late at my daughter's play the night before and I just enjoyed sleeping in.