Wednesday, September 12, 2012
One nation under God
The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a man named Francis Bellamy in 1892. It was first published in a children’s magazine called The Youth’s Companion, and was part of the National Public School Celebration of the 400th anniversary of the day that Christopher Columbus first set foot on American soil.
The original pledge read as follows:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Bellamy was a Baptist minister, as well as a socialist, and he also wanted to include the words “equality” and “fraternity“, but decided against it due to the fact that the superintendents of education in his community were against equality for women and African-Americans.
After its original publication, the pledge was amended three more times. Eighteen years after the third revision, the Pledge was officially recognized by Congress in June of 1942, in all likelihood due to the fact that America was now officially at war with Japan, Germany, and Italy.
The Cold War officially started in 1946, and by the time that the junior senator from Wisconsin had done his damage, America had a genuine fear of all those Godless communists. In 1951, the Knights of Columbus organization started to add the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance, and on Flag Day of 1954, the words “under God” were officially incorporated into the Pledge by a Joint Resolution of Congress.
It’s impossible to know what the Founding Fathers would have thought about the various changes in the Pledge, but it’s abundantly clear that the Founding Fathers felt very strongly that religion was a private matter in which the state should not interfere. Although there IS a reference to “Nature’s God” and the “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence, there is NO reference at all to a divine being in the Constitution, and the very first amendment to the Constitution forbade the establishment of any official church or creed.
For the same reason, the currency that was issued by our new country did NOT have the words “In God We Trust” on either the coins or the paper currency.
At the height of the Civil War, the Union figured that it needed all the help that it could get, so legislation was passed on April 22, 1864 to allow inclusion of the phrase on one and two cent coins. Although the phrase was subsequently added to other coins, it wasn’t until 1938 that ALL coins included the phrase.
For the same reason that “one nation under God” was added to the Pledge in 1954, the United States officially replaced the “unofficial” motto of E pluribus Unum with an OFFICIAL motto of “In God we trust.” Three years later, Congress started to add the phrase to paper money. By 1966, ALL paper currency issued by the United States included the words “In God we trust.”
From time to time, a columnist or commentator will state the position that the United States is a Christian nation. Unfortunately, that is simply NOT the truth. Ironically, the very FIRST nation to recognize the new country of the United States was the Islamic country of Morocco, way back in 1777, and our countries have had a strong relationship ever since.
During the colonial period in America, people could be (and were) put to death for disagreeing with their pastors, and the Founding Fathers had seen enough religious wars in Europe that they felt very strongly about establishing a SECULAR, not a religious country. Modern examples of why mixing religion and state are wrong are (1) the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan and (2) the exercise of sharia law in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and a few other countries.
It IS a fact that the majority of the citizens of Amreica are Christians . To be precise, Christians make up 78.4 % of our population, and the overwhelming majority of those would be considered Protestant.
Although Catholicism is the second most popular religion in the entire world (after Islam) Catholics represent only 24% of the American population. Mormons are a tiny 1.7% of the population. Ironically, that’s the same percentage claimed by those of the Jewish faith. Muslims are less than 1% of the total.
In spite of their small percentages, though, both Jews and Muslims are the overwhelming victims of hate crimes in America. The vast majority of those hate crimes are committed by mis-guided “Christians”.
Although our Founding Fathers made every attempt to separate religion from state, there have been times throughout our history when one group or another wanted to have us return to our “Christian values”. Setting aside the fact that there’s no small irony in the fact that serial adulterers like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh are among the group asking us to return to Christian values, what exactly ARE Christian values?
For starters, I would define acting as a Christian as acting as Christ would have acted. Using THAT definition, I actually met a lot of atheists in China who were better Christians than some of the Christians that I’ve met in America, but that’s straying from topic a bit.
Perhaps one of the best examples of Christian values is the Universal Declarations of Human Rights that was issued by the United Nations in 1948, in large part to the worldwide outrage generated by the Holocaust (which some folks still don’t believe). A copy is attached in the link above, and I’d recommend reading the entire document.
Like most modern countries, the United States has done a pretty good job of enforcing the ideals found in the United Nations document, but there are still areas that we need to improve in, even more than 60 years later. Here’s a few quick examples:
1 - Article 2 states that everyone, regardless of color, has the same rights and freedoms. However, it wasn’t until 1965 that our country passed the Voting Rights Act, and in the last two years, more than 20 states have passed voter ID laws, which were designed SPECIFICALLY to deny minorities the right to vote.
2 - Article 5 prohibits torture, but that didn’t prevent us from using “enhanced interrogation methods” about 10 years ago.
3- Article 9 prohibits arbitrary arrest, but apparently Sheriff Joe didn’t get the memo.
4 - Article 18 grants freedom of religion and thought, and includes the freedom to change religion, but I’ve met PLENTY of folks who were convinced that THEIR religion, and ONLY there religion, was the way to salvation. Since Paul Harvey once got a letter from God, I thought I’d share God’s thoughts with you:
what does a letter from Heaven sound like?
5 - Article 19 includes the right to freedom of opinion and expression, without interference. Have you ever heard of Sean Hannity?
6- Article 23 gives the right of equal pay for equal work, but it took until January of 2009 to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act.
7 - Article 21 states that the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of the government, but Arizona has a wacky legislator (and we have a bunch of them here) who wants to have our Senators APPOINTED rather than elected.
8 - Article 23 also gives the right to form a union, but Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin didn’t get the memo, either.
9 - Article 25 gives the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care - even if the only medical care that his wife can afford is provided by Planned Parenthood.
10 - Article 25 also meshes well with the Bible. The words “poor” or “poverty” appear 446 times in 384 verse in the Bible, and the word “justice” appears 1576 times in the Old Testament and 1379 times in the New Testament.
By now, you’re probably seeing a trend.
Although our elected officials in Congress have managed to work together in the past to find bi-partisan solutions to social problems (and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program is probably the best example) bi-partisan cooperation in Congress in recent years has gone the way of the dodo bird.
If you’ve had a chance to review Paul Ryan’s budget, or taken a closer look at the 2012 Republican Party platform, you’ll notice that the most vulnerable members of our society would potentially be at greater risk than they are now.
I’m all for Christian values. That’s why the Party that best exemplifies Christian values should continue to control the White House and the Senate, and I’d like to see them get control of the House as well.
Can I hear an Amen, brothers and sisters?