Under God

The Meaning of ‘Under God’

The NYTimes asks the question: What does “under God” mean within the context of The Pledge of Allegiance.

Don’t forget that the so-called greatest generation who brought the nation out of the Depression and through World War II grew up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance without “under God.” The reference to God was first drummed into the baby-boom generation, who in their turn brought the nation the 1960’s.

Citing the fallacious logic principle “post hoc, propter hoc” (after this, because of this) the Times asks those who blame the 60s degrading morality on the banning of school prayer to consider if the inclusion of “under God” might have had an effect.

They also quote Rabbi Arthur Waskow with a suggestion on how to change the pledge: Rabbi Arthur Waskow, author, inveterate political organizer and director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, once proposed that it would be far more educational if youngsters got to choose the words preceding God in the pledge. The mystically inclined could say “inside God” or “suffused with God.” Seekers could say “exploring God.” Christians smitten with prophecies about the end times could say “awaiting God.” Some Jews would certainly choose “wrestling with God.” Muslims might prefer “surrendering to God.” And so on.

The Times certainly raises a few thought-provoking questions. I have a few more to raise though.

First: Normally I support the removal of the words from the pledge. I don’t feel they belong. I strongly support all those students who have belief to have the right to voluntarily, individually, and silently to issue their prayers to God at any time during the school day, as long as in so doing they do not interrupt a class in session. As one with strong beliefs, I had that right as a student, and would want other students to as well. But that doesn’t give the state a right to impose a prayer. Nor does it give the right for the State to intertwine the oath of allegiance with an oath to God.

As it stands, it is impossible for a student to pledge allegiance to their country without pledging allegiance to a God. The two options are to say the pledge, or not to say it. So a patriotic, but atheist student is in a true bind.

On the flip-side, however, leaving the “under God” in the pledge provides a nice cover for the unpatriotic student. They can claim they don’t believe in God, which is much more acceptable in today’s climate than being unpatriotic.

If the words were removed, they no longer would have that cover. Anyone refusing to say the pledge would only have one reason: lack of patriotism. (Unless their religion considered saluting the flag equivalent to idolatry, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses…but this excuse is not as acceptable today as atheism, and since few religious denominations feel this way, it would be hard for the unpatriotic student to use this cover.)

With this in mind, perhaps we should keep the words in the pledge. Unless, of course, we decide we want to out all the potential terrorists in our schools.

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