Saluting the Flag — More Politics (sorry)

Yesterday I went out to get the mail and saw the flags hanging in front of a neighbor’s house. Two Trump flags and a US flag. I sighed. Nothing in the world can sway that guy from his conviction and show him that he’s been had. A yard sign has been in his, uh, yard since May. “Save Colorado. Vote Republican.” He’s a nice enough guy and a decent neighbor, though he doesn’t clean up after his dog on their walks around the hood. From Bear’s perspective, that’s a good thing, but from mine it’s gross.

Then there’s the fracas over “Under God” in the pledge of allegiance which, apparently, a couple of small caucuses — Muslim and LGBQT — at the Democratic National Convention left out when they saluted the bit of cloth that is believed to represent our nation.

I was curious about this because I know that the people from whom I am descended (Swiss Mennonites) would not say the pledge because it is an oath to the state and Jesus clearly advises against it:

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Matt. 5:33-37 ESV

This is, I believe, pretty clear instruction and explanation for why the taking of oaths is a bad plan.

I had a dim memory of this change to the pledge having been a dinner table discussion in my childhood, even after it was a fait accompli.

Francis Bellamy (1855 – 1931) was the author of the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance and socialist Baptist minister who believed strongly in the separation of church and state. “Under God” was added by Congress on Flag Day, 1954.” Bellamy was dismayed and outraged when the pledge was changed.

When I learned that the pledge was written by Francis Bellamy, light bulbs (not very bright ones) went off in my mind at that name. A little research showed me that he was the cousin of Edward Bellamy, the author of a Utopian novel nearly everyone has forgotten (me too), Looking Backward from 2000 to 1887. “The book became a sensational best seller in its time, selling over one million copies, and was the second most purchased novel at the end of the nineteenth century (behind Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin).”

Bellamy’s Utopia, as I remember it, was a state of voluntary (mostly) socialism without being communism. Our form of government remained the same. That’s important. It put humans before corporations in the social order. Social equality was important as was empathy. That is all I remember of the book, but maybe it’s what Bellamy would like anyone to remember.

So, yeah. God. A friend posted this in response to my post on Facebook that said pretty much what I’m saying here, “[Under God] Drives me nuts, both the “under God” in the pledge, and hearing every politician ending every speech with “God bless America.” Whose god? What about those of us who have no such belief (a growing number)? What actual blessing, and why just for America? How selfish is that? What happened to being a country where religion and politics/patriotism are separate? The founding fathers would be incredulous.”

She’s right. The founding fathers — a loose affiliation of Deists, Puritans, Episcopalians, Quakers and who knows what else — WOULD be incredulous. They’d be all, “WTF????”

That made me think about the word, “God.” I happen to believe in God. I do not believe in religion (for myself, others have to figure this out for themselves). As a practicing panenetheist, I see God as a kind of nameless entity comprising absolutely everything everywhere, even this debate. People robotically chanting “under God” is ridiculous since that’s the most obvious thing in the, uh, universe. Where else would anyone be? Maybe they’re reminding themselves where they are. I don’t know.

I also believe adamantly in the separation of church and state. My Swiss ancestors died over that issue in the 16th and 17th century. I understand that in their time — until long after the Reformation — most governments were tied to the church and it might have been hard to envision anything else (people being limited in their vision), but NOW??? Good government shouldn’t care at all how people worship — or if. As for the flag? Come on, seriously? I would fight to defend my house, my neighbors, my friends, the right of my neighbor to hang Trump flags in front of his house. Since 45 was elected I’ve fought in my quiet way for the welfare of my country. But the FLAG? I do not say the Pledge of Allegiance, and I do not stand for the flag. That does not mean I don’t love my country; in fact, it means the opposite. ” [a person]… must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance.”

24 thoughts on “Saluting the Flag — More Politics (sorry)

  1. You’ve got it right: “Good” government shouldn’t care at all how people worship. It’s the “good” part that we are missing. Church/religion and state/government have meshed insidiously for so long that I don’t think anybody notices. Or most anybody. I appreciate how you “go there.”

  2. “Under God” was added by the McCarthyites because there were a lot more folks back then who we’d describe as right wing fundamentalists and that was their core group. It was specifically to distinguish between us and Godless Communism. Notice how almost every patriotic song brings up God?

    Ironic, because Jefferson specifically did NOT mention God in the Declaration of Independence (he used the generic term “creator” to keep everyone happy) and God is nowhere in the Constitution. There were even a few Atheists among our founders, such as Thomas Paine.

    Personally I want to change the National Anthem to Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” Doesn’t need to assert religious justifications. If offers senses of both freedom and wonder. And I can sing it.

  3. Well said! We were discussing this earlier. Both my hubby and me agreed pledging allegence to a flag is the same as pledging it to a golden calf. Its idolatry. That from a couple who are both agnostics. We think there is something out there. But we don’t know what it is, except if it rules the universe it must be infinite. X

  4. I’ve been an attorney since 1983. It was only sometime between then and now (probably in the 1990s but can’t remember exactly) that the courts where I practiced in WA state stopped using a hand on the Bible as part of the swearing of witnesses. Not long after that, they changed the language from “Do you swear to tell the truth?” to “Do you swear or affirm to tell the truth?” Progress.

    I’ve come to believe that those who get so upset about the lack of their god in public and political spaces, or the flag for that matter, “doth protest too much.” Deep down, they know their own actions don’t measure up to their religious/patriotic ideals, so they make a public show to cover up.

  5. Excellent points. I would posit that besides good government staying out of the individual’s spiritual practices they also need to keep their noses out of the bedroom!

  6. It’s ironic and a shame that the ‘intention’ (i’m going to botch this comment with all the wrong words but I’m writing it anyway) of the ‘Pilgrims’/first settlers was to flee from religious tyranny & oppression and here we are…right where we started. AND…I also agree with you about the flag and the reason some of us do not “worship” that piece of cloth (not that I don’t respect it.)

  7. I agree, the flag is a symbol that has certainly lost its luster. True patriots, I believe, are the people who support what this country is supposed to stand for and that is not religious intolerance and exclusionary white supremacy. Okay. That’s as political as I’m gonna get.

  8. I agree with your comments about the flag. It is a form of idolatry although we still should show respect. This was the stance we took growing up and I remember being the only one in school year after year not saluting the flag. I was proud to stand up for my beliefs as I know Jehovah God appreciates those that show faith in him.

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