Local News Archive
Print Issue: July 4, 2002
We Are One 'Under God'
By Rebecca Rakoczy, Executive Editor
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.
- Pledge of Allegiance
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, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
- from the 'Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
I am a believer in silver linings; na´ve though some may think that is. And so it is with the recent 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 2-1 decision in favor of abolishing The Pledge of Allegiance because of the phrase, "under God." The case involved an atheist parent who said it was a violation of the U.S. Constitution for his daughter to have to hear her classmates recite the pledge. It was a violation of the separation of church and state. And a majority of the court agreed. Outrageous, petty, all those things came to mind. Aren't there more pressing concerns these days?
Still, I listened to the well-reasoned, logical conclusion of the court that the recitation of the words, under God, could, by their very usage, be a way of evangelizing about the presence of one God to our poor, atheistic brethren with no beliefs in any higher Being at all.
Ah, if it would be so - and so easy! To simply say, one nation, under God, and know that everyone believed that one thing, that we are together, One under our Creator. Instant understanding of God, and then, gradual understanding of God as Savior. Intimidating? No, I would say, how liberating to know this! I was so blind, and now the court's action has opened my eyes in new appreciation of the power of that phrase. Under God. A silver lining in a school child's chant. A belief in a higher Power. A strength implied, a unity shared.
Our high courts have already drawn the line about allowing God-talk in public schools, prayer in sporting events, and said no to the 10 Commandments in courtrooms and state offices. To eviscerate the Pledge of Allegiance was, of course, coming and it was only a matter of time, right? (By the way, some schools don't even say the pledge, but that's another story.)
Hmm. But then, in an act of indignation, members of Congress ran out to the front steps of the Capitol to say the Pledge of Allegiance, showing a resounding round of support on a subject that had received lackluster attention up until then. They reaffirmed, One Nation, Under God.
The President of the United States blasted the decision, and in Georgia, candidates for every office under the sun began their own pledges never to enact such a ridiculous ruling, that their students could say the pledge whenever they wanted. (Of course, they still can. The ruling, if upheld, will only be good in the nine Western states where the court has jurisdiction.)
Regardless of what political hay anyone wants to make of this, this is prime time to examine our beliefs, and no better time than this high day of patriotism, our Independence Day.
We can begin counting the ways we say, under God, every day: we sing "God Bless America"; "America The Beautiful" (God shed his grace on thee). We non-verbally agree that "In God We Trust," every time we pass paper currency or coins.
When Sept. 11 occurred, there was an incredible outpouring of patriotism as thousands of flags were hung from every household, business and car antennae. For many it was the way to show our allegiance to our nation and to that flag, to show that we were one nation, united, strong despite tragedy.
There are many members of our "Greatest Generation" who have never taken the flag for granted; and so, for this argument to wake up and look again at our Pledge of Allegiance, I do apologize. I know you have never forgotten.
But for the rest of us, it seems that we need these acts of onerous judgments to make us realize what we really believe in, to make us pay attention to what is important in our lives.
One nation under God.
Would it be the same as one nation, under Zeus, as the esteemed judges declared? One nation under monotheism? One nation under Vishnu?
Sorry, but history has a different story.
Today, as we celebrate our nation's independence, there's that fiercely yet respectfully crafted missive to King George III called the Declaration of Independence. Those who wrote it led - and ended - their document with a firm statement of that belief in our Creator and again, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.
As the nation reexamines its pledge to the flag, we also need to remember another 'pledge' we say every time we go to Mass, the one that begins, "We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen . . ." We need to say it and know it, and not take it for granted.
Because we are a free nation today - endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights - we are able to say that creed with freedom whenever we want, and know it is true. One nation under God. Amen.