Understanding the Pledge

Fortunately, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this year upheld the Pledge of Allegiance, so kids will go on reciting it. But how many know what it really means—especially “one nation under God”?

For most people, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is a heart-warming patriotic expression. However, in some public school classrooms, what has been a “given” is now “questionable.” In some people’s view, reciting the Pledge may still be legal, but it is no longer appropriate.

However, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “can the liberties of a nation be thought securec when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that they are gifts of God?”

He reflected this idea in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …”

Eric Buehrer, founder and president of Gateways to Better Education, points out that the idea of our freedom coming from God at the time of creation is central to the American experience. And, as Buehrer writes, “rooted in Christian history, the idea of being under God is reflected in important developments in every century of American history.”

In the 1800s Lincoln recognized our liberties coming from God when he delivered his Gettysburg Address. He said “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

And, in the latter part of the 20th Century, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. appealed to the same principle of divinely bestowed rights for all people as the underpinnings for the Civil Rights movement. From a Birmingham jail, he referred to the “transcendent Law of God, governing us all.” And then he said famously, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”

Each time we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we are reminding ourselves of what Jefferson called the “only firm basis” for libertya conviction that these rights come from God, not the government.

Your children’s schools may not teach them this important principle, but you can. As a family you can read and discuss what the Pledge of Allegiance means.

To help you do that, our friends at Gateways to Better Education are offering Breakpoint listeners a free poster of the American flag that also has an explanation for each phrase of the Pledge—including what it means to be one nation under God.

The poster they’ve created uses the words of the Declaration of Independence to explain “one nation under God.” It’s being used in public school classrooms across the country. To receive your free copy of the Pledge of Allegiance poster for your family, visit www.breakpoint.org.

I applaud Gateways for its tremendous work of equipping parents and teachers so they can help our children and grandchildren understand the importance of our Christian heritage.

That’s a task we should all take up.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • plowshare

    Lincoln also made it explicit towards the end: “We…highly resolve…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of liberty”. In the August/September issue of First Things, Robert P. George has a long article in which he makes the connection with the Pledge of Allegiance and notes that the American Constitution Society is using early drafts of the Gettysburg Address which omit the words “under God” in its printed matter. Dr. George notes that this is a highly suspicious rewriting of history.