That Controversial Pledge, “Under God”
A firestorm (hotter than those in Colorado and Arizona) raged across the nation this past week. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Ninth District) handed down a 2-to-1 decision that a recitation of the “Pledge of Allegiance,” containing the words “one nation under God,” is “unconstitutional” in the school rooms of the District’s nine states. If the decision is not overturned, this would bar youngsters in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington from reciting the Pledge in their classrooms.
The decision was the result of a lawsuit filed by a Sacramento, California atheist on behalf of his second-grade daughter.
Reaction to the Court’s announcement came fast and furious. The President, through his spokesman, characterized the decision as “ridiculous.” Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said the ruling was “nuts.” He needed not to remind us that “nuts” do not fall far from the tree. The Senate, by unanimous resolution, condemned the Court’s ruling, and the House of Representatives assembled on the Capitol steps to recite the Pledge (robustly accentuating “under God”), followed by a rousing rendition of “God Bless America.” Even the most liberal of the news media ventured not to speak in defense of the maverick Court.
As numerous others have done, I’d like to offer my own observations regarding this legal judgment — which likely will be as fleeting as the proverbial June frost.
(1) The phrase “under God” was inserted into the Pledge by an act of Congress in 1954, when America was engaged in a “cold war” with what then was known commonly as “Godless Communism.” Some, who are oblivious to Soviet history, now sneer at that epithet. Increasingly America has become so crassly secular in every facet of life that references to God have become, to many, an embarrassment. The question frequently is asked: “Must we be so religiously ostentatious in an increasingly pluralistic world community?”
(2) In the aftermath of this controversy, many have called attention to how inconsistent this present assault is. “God” is referenced four times in the Declaration of Independence. The Articles of Confederation (1778) referred to the “Great Governor of the World.” For many years it has been customary for a newly-elected President’s oath to be buttressed with “so help me God,” just as regular court oaths are. Even the Supreme Court of the United States petitions, “God save this Honorable Court.” Our currency is inscribed with “In God We Trust.”
(3) No one dreams that these expressions are violations of the Constitution, save a few misguided souls whose skeptical agenda expresses neither the truth, nor the will of America’s citizenry.
If, however, atheism could have its way, all references to God would be obliterated from society’s awareness. Chiselers would have a fulltime vocation just eradicating the sacred name from thousands of public monuments.
Madalyn Murray O’Hair once snarled: “I’d like to close down every goddamned [sic] church in the country” (“Atheist Speaks Out,” Stockton [CA] Record August 5, 1978, p. 16). That crude old gal couldn’t even “cuss” without acknowledging the One whose existence she denied!
(4) It is difficult to fathom the insensitivity of a parent who would use his young daughter (around seven years of age) as a pawn for the implementation of his personal program of religious disillusionment. That sweet girl cannot begin to comprehend the nature or gravity of this embroilment. In spite of this reality, the child has been thrust into the forefront of the controversy. A sensationalistic father apparently cares little about the possible traumatic damage this turmoil could bring to his precious daughter.
(5) A swell of protest has arisen, clamoring that the phrase “one nation under God” must remain inviolate. Yet to thousands this verbiage means nothing in the practical sense. Many have not the slightest intention of being “under God,” in terms of honoring his sovereign authority, as revealed in the sacred Scriptures, by submitting to his will. If anything, “God” is but a microscopic appendage of their materialistic lives — a mere platitude for ceremony, and an emergency lever for a moment of crisis. At other times, the mantra is: “God, stand aside; do not bother me.”
(6) Almost at the same time the “nutty” California Court (Daschle’s assessment) was handing down this inane decision, the President of our nation was signing a bill (over Justice Department objections) that provides insurance benefits to “same-sex domestic partners.” David Smith, of the Human Rights Campaign (the largest gay/lesbian organization in the nation), praised the bill for validating the assertion that homosexual unions are as legitimate as the heterosexual marriage relationship. Who cares about the “under God” law regulating marriage? Politicians will accommodate the grossest forms of society-ravaging immorality — if the stakes are high enough.
(7) The desire to be politically correct has compelled some to suggest that the “God” of the Pledge does not refer necessarily to the personal deity who created the world (the God of the Bible). Rather, by mental manipulation or reservation the “God” word, it is alleged, may stand for any object of adoration one chooses to imagine. As Larry King, that profound philosopher of CNN, postulated: “It could even be a tree.” Imagine that — “One nation, under a tree, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” How inspiring!
(8) This nation, since its inception, has been “under God” — irrespective of any “declaration” of men. It has been blessed by his providential care in innumerable ways (Acts 14:17). Moreover, it is subject to his exaltation, or annihilation — depending upon its moral fiber (Psa. 9:17; Prov. 14:34). The Creator still rules in the kingdoms of men (Dan. 4:17; cf. 2:21; Acts 17:26). He is sovereign over the nations (Psa. 22:28), and will remain so until that time when he breaks rebellious powers into unrecognizable fragments (see Psa. 2:8-9; Rev. 19:15; cf. 2:27).
Yes, it would be nice to be continually reminded that we are “one nation under God.” Nonetheless, the Almighty will have His way ultimately — regardless of what arrogant courts may dictate, or what superficially-spiritual people may mouth meaninglessly.
Moreover, there is a “pledge” that is nobler than all others (1 Timothy 6:12); one’s allegiance to God and his Son should be foremost.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.