My article on the Confederate battle flag stimulated much discussion. Among the limited but strident opposition, with few exceptions, was exhibited much of the sentimentalism and illogical non-sequitur already refuted in the article. For the few exceptions, perhaps, if time and chance allow, I will offer my responses at some later date. I wish only to address, in a way, one point here: an analogy drawn to flying the American flag.
The basic argument of the former article is that the founding of the Confederacy is inseparable from racist, chattel slavery and all the abominations attendant thereunto. All other arguments about the war and the degenerate radicalism and corruption of the North notwithstanding, this baggage alone—which no effort yet has been able to shed—is enough to dump the allegiance to that flag.
The obvious retort, then, is, “Then what about the American flag?” True: greater atrocities than Southern slavery (and including Southern slavery), and far more in quantity, have been perpetrated under the auspices of that symbol and its Constitution—abortion being the foremost example of our generation. My argument about the Confederate flag certainly did not, and was not meant to, preclude such an observation.
The clearest refutation of any such suspicion will come if only the accuser take the time to peruse Restoring America One County at a Time. But a few pages here and there will be enough to inform the reader to my highly critical views of America’s sins and how those sins are derived from mistakes made at the framing of the Constitution.
What I did not include in my reviews of late-nineteenth-century Nationalism (with which too many Christians and conservatives have been successfully trained to replace true patriotism) is the doleful history of the so-called pledge of allegiance. This Socialist artifact is blindly recited and defended by Christians and conservatives today in some kind of collectivist coma complete with mental images of George Washington praying and Madison holding aloft the Constitution amidst the sound of angel choirs, and—glory! The fireworks go off, and, “Play ball!”
The participant is rarely taught that not a single founding father, nor a single one of their immediate descendants, ever heard of anything like a pledge of allegiance. With few exceptions (Adams), they probably would not have condoned it either.
This pledge was written by an openly Socialist leader of the Socialist movement for the means and ends of Socialism, in hopes of producing more Socialists through America’s Socialist school system. It was nothing short of a means of unifying the national mind for the purposes of collectivization—the destruction of individualism and of individual rights and liberties.
The pledge was the product of a public-private partnership (i.e. Socialism) with the school system. The owner of Youth’s Companion magazine made his fortunes using American flags in public schools as incentives to sell magazine subscriptions. In a brief four year marketing campaign, the magazine had reached 26,000 schools. When sales began to plateau, owner Daniel Ford eyed the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus “discovering” America as a new marketing angle. To this end he hired a well-known Socialist activist and liberal Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy.
Francis was younger brother to the more famous (at the time) Edward Bellamy, whose 1887 novel Looking Backward, 2000–1887 had led to the formation of “Nationalist Clubs” (read: Socialist Clubs) across the country. The novel openly promoted a Socialist utopia in which America is transformed into a “national-cöoperative”: wages and contracts are abolished and “all alike were in the service of the nation working for the common fund, which all equally shared.”1 The historian of the Social Gospel who relates this information notes that this socialized economy was envisioned to include socialized health care, and the abolition of capitalism and of private profits.
Edward was among the leaders who advanced these ideas as Christian virtues and duties. He was among the founding editors of the first and most prominent publication of the Society of Christian Socialists, The Dawn, in 1889. A few years later, he would join the more overtly-titled The American Fabian. The same aforementioned historian referred to Edward’s famous novel as “a powerful tract presenting the concept of a socialized totalitarian state . . . with a religious halo.”2
Francis was just as committed to the cause, and was, in fact, later booted from his pulpit for preaching Socialism. He had been not only a member but a founding member of the Society, and had helped draft its mission statement:
To awaken members of Christian churches to the fact that the teachings of Jesus Christ lead directly to some specific form or forms of Socialism. . . .
It was this radical Freemason who was hired in 1891 to sell magazines in public schools leveraging the landing of Columbus. This he did eagerly, seeing the opportunity as a means of advancing his collectivist agenda as well—which the schools were already designed to entrench anyway. The resulting plan was to use a national Columbus Day in which public schools would herd children around flag poles in a nationalistic salute to the flag. This unprecedented ceremony was to be the central focus of the day, and for the occasion Francis penned the original pledge of allegiance.
Students were required to salute the flag with arms extended and palms flat in imitation of the ancient Roman fascists. This gesture was adopted nationwide until it was recognized that the same salute was utilized by Hitler. At that point the salute was exchanged for the hand-over-heart gesture of Nationalism.
Reviewing his 1892 creation, Bellamy stated that he carefully selected the words, including that which in my view is the most unacceptable of all, “indivisible.” Bellamy stated that this word was specifically chosen because the Civil War was fought to prove that this nation can never be divided and must always stand as one Nation.
Despite his views on the Civil War and his progressive economic views, Bellamy was a racist who opposed immigration and universal suffrage for that reason. He opined that “every dull-witted or fanatical immigrant admitted to our citizenship is a bane to the commonwealth.” His sentiments on race, which were actually representative of a large portion of pseudo-religious Nationalist Yankees, can hardly be distinguished from those of the most hardened Southern slaver:
Where all classes of society merge insensibly into one another every alien immigrant of inferior race may bring corruption to the stock. There are races more or less akin to our own whom we may admit freely and get nothing but advantage by the infusion of their wholesome blood. But there are other races, which we cannot assimilate without lowering our racial standard, which we should be as sacred to us as the sanctity of our homes.
Hardly “liberty and justice for all,” that.
And we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that the original pledge did NOT contain the phrase “under God” or any other reference to religion. That phrase was added in 1954 during the Eisenhower administration as a nationalistic reaction to the threat of godless Communism. Ironic, isn’t it, that the minister did not think to add God to his pledge of allegiance, and that such a phrase made its way in only as an expedient urged by a politician?
And honestly, I think it is a joke to argue over the phrase “under God” in this pledge when the founding document of the nation from day one purposefully excluded such a phrase for the oath of public office. Give me back religious test oaths for office holders and I’ll take seriously any conversation about civic religious recitations once again.
Should we pledge allegiance to the flag?
As I prepared to write about pledging allegiance to the flag, I came across a brief piece by R. C. Sproul, Jr., which basically says everything I would say, only in a more concise form. I consent and agree with the following arguments Sproul makes, especially beginning with the first “But”:
Because I wish to answer some likely objections before answering this question, you will likely guess my answer. When the Bible calls us to “pray for the peace of Babylon” (Jeremiah 29:7) I believe that means we are called to pray for the peace of our nation. When the Bible calls us to pray for our leaders (I Timothy 2: 1-4) I believe we are called to pray for our leaders. When the Bible calls us to give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7) I believe we are called to give honor to whom honor is due in our nation. I would add in turn that I believe the providence of God has blessed this nation like no other nation in history. I love what our founding fathers stood for. I love my country, and aspire to be faithful to it. But I do not believe Christians should pledge allegiance to the flag of these United States.
My first concern, as it ought to be with any oath or vow, is with the truth in the oath or vow. I am quite concerned that what the pledge affirms is just not true. First, while I am grateful that our founders designed this country to be ruled by the Constitution, to be ruled by law, this country is not now a Republic. That rule which is supposed to be the law of the land, the Constitution, is routinely and perpetually ignored by both major parties. In like manner the pledge claims we are a nation under God when I fear we are a nation in deepest rebellion against God. We are under Him in reality, but we think ourselves above Him.
Indivisible may be the most troubling word in the whole of the pledge. I have no desire to see the nation divided. We are not expressing here, however, a wish that it will not be divided but a conviction that it cannot be divided. This is, in essence, a claim that the union is immortal, a claim to deity. This nation is most assuredly not indivisible.
The last phrase, I would argue, is also not true. There we claim that ours is a nation where there is liberty and justice for all. Is that true? Are we free to work in the field of our choice, without a license from the state? Are we at liberty to build a shed in our back yard, without getting a permit from the state? Are we free to not purchase health insurance for our employees? Are we free to keep the fruits of our labor?
My second concern, however, ties together the last and the first phrases. Does the flag stand for, represent those founding virtues, or does it now represent a nation where every year over a million of our tiniest citizens are not just denied liberty and justice, but life itself? Does not that flag represent both a state which is pledged to protect the “right” to murder the unborn, and does it not represent the citizens of that nation who avail themselves of that right over 3000 times each day?
I love my country. But I cannot pretend that my country is something that it no longer is. I love my country, but I fear the judgment of God. I love my country, but I weep for it. I love my country, and what it once was. But I am ashamed of what it has become. The truth of the matter, however, is that were we what we once were, were we what I hope and labor that we will be again, I still could not in good conscience pledge my allegiance. Because I look for that city whose builder and maker is God. I love my country, but because I, by His grace, have been made a part of that royal priesthood, my commitment is to that holy nation (I Peter 2:9). I love my country, but my allegiance, my loyalty is to Jesus Christ.
In agreement with all of this, as well as in view of its sordid history, let me just say bluntly that I don’t believe in pledging allegiance to the flag, and I don’t practice it. And while I do not make it a point of contention when among groups that do so, I do always stand silently with arms at my sides. No one has ever noticed or said anything to me, but if they did, I would calmly explain to them my biblical stand against Socialism, collectivism, resistance to tyrants, and the need for a more thoroughly biblical allegiance in society and the King of kings.
So while I am opposed to a state flying the Confederate flag, I am also opposed to pledging allegiance to the current one as well. And I should be so candid as to say that I think the state should be out of the flag business altogether. Focusing on symbols is a good way to collectivize the minds of people and overlook a variety of national sins—when those sins are the very things upon which we should be focused to begin with.
When God through Moses constituted the Israelite nation, he said that the very thing that would commend the nation to international glory was her laws (Deut. 4:5–8). That is, the glory of a nation will be found in its ethics, not its symbols. When that nation forgot God’s Law, and yet gloried in their temple, God permanently destroyed the temple (AD 70) in judgment according to that Law. Ethics over symbol any day. It is high time that Christians in this country focus on the ethics and laws rather than the symbols.
That is my allegiance, and the allegiance of The American Vision: to restore America to her biblical foundations.