Tuesday, January 7, 2014

On national loyalty oaths

A Facebook friend — someone I hold very dear to me — recently shared the following:


Well, I am not afraid of offending anyone.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by a socialist Baptist pastor named Francis Bellamy. Bellamy was so socialist, his own flock dismissed him for preaching socialism more than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prior to the Civil War, Americans (both North and South) commonly viewed their primary political loyalty as belonging to their respective states — they considered themselves Ohioans or Texans first, and Americans second. Bellamy considered such views dangerous — having led to the Civil War — and thought it important to train school children to be politically loyal to the United States. This was his motivation in writing the Pledge.

Not only did Bellamy write the pledge, he also specified the original flag salute. For its first 40 or 50 years, you recited pledge with your right arm outstretched upward toward the flag. Numerous old photos and even film clips record the original posture. Some extended their arms palms up, others palms down. (Go ahead, I'll wait while you try this posture in the privacy of your home.) With the rise of Hitler in the mid-1930s, this fascist salute was abruptly abandoned in favor of the hand-on-heart posture we all grew up with.

Please, don't take my word for any of this. Contrary to my usual practice, I won't link to any articles in support of my claims. Just Google "pledge allegiance history" and see for yourself. Read the articles, look at the images, watch the videos. None of these claims re. the history of the pledge are in dispute — they are well-established (though now little-known) facts of history.

And so, dear Facebook friends, I am not ashamed to say that I haven't recited the pledge ever since these facts first came to my attention about 15 years ago or so. I've abandoned the pledge for two reasons.

First and foremost, the pledge is really a creed — a kind of religious act — and Christians of all people should suspect any activity in which fealty is publicly proclaimed to anything other than the Father, Son and Holy Spirit — the one true and living God. The social expectation that people utter such a public proclamation verges on idolatry.

Additionally, the pledge was birthed in big-government nationalism. Prior to the Civil War, we were known as the "united states of America" — small u, small s. In using violence to force the South to remain in the Union against its will, Abraham Lincoln radically altered the political nature of this country. Forescore and seven years prior, America was founded in secession — now Lincoln was prohibiting it! In the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln played the role of the British King, George III.

I realize that your personal convictions may differ from mine. Please understand that, even though the pledge was composed by a socialist for nationalist purposes, and even though it closely resembles a religious creed, I am not saying that people who choose to recite the pledge are, therefore, either idolaters or national-socialists.

But I do think it is important for people to know the history of what they believe, and to know why they believe it. We should not believe or practice anything merely because it sounds good, or gives us a warm fuzzy or a lump in our throat.

And we most definitely should not do things just because we might receive the scorn of others if we don't.

Besides, we shouldn't have to pledge allegiance to the flag or the United States of America to somehow demonstrate that we are good citizens. We should simply obey the law, work hard, and live at peace with our neighbors. Good citizenship is best demonstrated by actions, not words.