Do you know the Pledge of Allegiance? Are you sure?
July 30, 2010
To be sure, I don’t consider this a particularity enlightened or profound observation. I just find it amusing.
Sometimes political groups adopt litmus tests for the purpose of demonstrating acceptance of their particular philosophy. I find it interesting that in some cases the litmus test originated from a source diametrically opposed to their philosophy. One such test used by conservative groups to test for “Love of democracy and God” is the Pledge of Allegiance. Maybe you’ve seen one of those emails asking you sign a petition supporting the Pledge to show your love your country and love God. I’m not really sure what that accomplishes but it must make someone feel good.
What I find myself wondering is if those fervent signature solicitors know that the Pledge was written by a socialist and did not even mention God even though the author was also an ordained Baptist minister. The origins of the Pledge and subsequent modifications do not change its role in our society as an expression of patriotism even though that was not the original intent. I am not “anit-Pledge” in anyway. I just am amused by those promoting it as standard for their cause without any knowledge of its rich and interesting history.
The author of the Pledge is Francis Bellamy (1855 – 1931) who was indeed a Baptist minister and a Christian Socialist. His writings and sermons suggested that the middle class could create a socialist society with political and economic equality for all its members. Bellamy wrote the pledge so one could profess their allegiance to the state, a state that would be responsible for managing the planned society. His life and the history of the pledge was the topic of a book by John W. Baer: “The Pledge of Allegiance, A Revised History and Analysis, 2007”
A time line of the evolution of the Pledge reveals that through the years various interest groups have inserted language to advance their particular causes. I wonder what it will say in another hundred years.
September 8, 1892. Bellamy publishes his original pledge in “The Youth’s Companion”:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
October, 1982. The word “to” is added”:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. ”
1923/1924. Against Bellamy’s objections the National Flag conference added replaced “my flag” with “the Flag of the United States of America”
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
1954. An effective campaign by the Knights of Columbus resulted in Congress adding “under God” to the pledge effectively making it a public prayer.
“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.”