One Nation Under God

It’s a set of simple but powerful words in the English language that most every school-child of speaking age in the United States knows by heart:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Our Pledge of Allegiance has an interesting history and has stirred many a patriotic and religiously faithful heart to strong emotions, and sometimes conflict.

Yes, I know this one only has 48 stars. Watch the Red Skelton video.I used to be among those reticent to repeat the Pledge, after years of unthinkingly doing so — having been a teen of the querulous Sixties and having forgotten Red Skelton’s exposition of it — on the grounds that it might, in some way, supercede the overarching supremacy of the Kingdom of God, who is sovereign forever and ever.

But I re-examine it these days, and find no such language. It is a pledge of loyalty to the nation into which I was born, which protected and nourished and educated me … which preserved my rights and freedoms and insisted on my responsibilities as a maturing individual … which required my taxes to do so but in doing so returned much more to me as an individual of average income than I could possibly have paid back … which accepted the sacrifices, willing and unwilling, penultimate and ultimate, of many a brave soul on its soil and beyond to assure the rights and freedoms that should be for all people of all nations — blessings which can only be described as priceless.

The pledge does not require that my loyalty to the United States of America supercede my loyalty of the Kingdom of God. To not pledge some allegiance of some measure to such a nation of nurture, of soaring hopes and high ideals, of openness to diversity and dreams, of empowerment to the enterprising — whatever their resources might or might not be — would be the mark of ingratitude.

Whatever shortcomings this nation has (and there are many, for it is comprised of many imperfect citizens), the United States of America remains an ideal to be accomplished … a declaration of independence from tyranny … a constitution for a more perfect union … a quality of equality worth aiming for and worth hitting dead-center with every single attempt.

So I have dropped my qualms about the Pledge of Allegiance. It does, after all, describe a human republic with hopes for many of the same attributes that are realities of the divine Kingdom:

… one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


7 thoughts on “One Nation Under God

  1. Keith,

    I have reached a very different conclusion. What are we pledging? Is it something that Christians would have pledged to Rome? Is it something that you would urge every Christian around the world to pledge to their government?

    There is no room in the Kingdom for “American exceptionism.” We can’t treat this country any differently than we would any other human nation.

    My qualms increase, especially as I see how the Pledge is forced on our children. And on others:

    I don’t think Christians dare try to serve more than one Master.

    • Tim, I completely respect your view. I am appalled when the Pledge — or any other oath, practice, or belief — is forced on anyone. That’s just plain wrong. It should always be a matter of freedom of conscience and choice — that’s a fundamental aspect of the First Amendment.

      I think where we differ is that I don’t see the Pledge as an oath to a different master, but an expression of fealty that is not exclusive. I could pledge fealty to a college roommate without that pledge negating a pledge of fealty to another dear friend. My pledge doesn’t mean that I will violate my principles for a person or a country or any so-called authority. And the pledge doesn’t mean that I think my nation is superior to others, or should dominate them, dictate to them, or force them into compliance with its collective will. That’s just plain wrong, too.

      Does that mean treating this country any differently than any other human nation? Yes, I think it does. No other nation has served as my home, the recipient of my taxes, the protector of my life … you get the picture. There is a relationship there; I’m not going to deny it. I don’t have that relationship with Ireland — as dearly as I love traveling there — or Canada or Iraq or Japan.

      At the same time, we need to be wise as serpents yet innocent as doves — and watch our government “like a hawk,” in the words of Goldie Hawn’s character “Sunny Davis” in Protocol — so that abrogations of our rights are not mandated by the ones elected to serve us.

      I’m not a God-and-country person. Pictures of Jesus draped in a flag as a mantle make me want to upchuck. I know my priorities. And the Pledge does not upstage them.

      • Keith,
        So how many countries should I pledge allegiance to? I am called to seek the good of all the nations of this world, as an ambassador of a different one. Do I pledge allegiance to Argentina, having lived 15 years there? Do I pledge allegiance to Cuba, where I regularly travel for the Kingdom?

        And again I ask, just what am I pledging? This is some sort of oath or vow… what am I pledging? I won’t kill for this country. I won’t steal for this country. I won’t lie.

        I will pay taxes and obey laws… that’s what foreigners like us are supposed to do. But I’ll never forget that my homeland is elsewhere. So what do I have to pledge to any country of this world? The same thing that I have to pledge to every country of this world.

        Grace and peace,

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