“Under God”?

Author’s photo, July 2006

W.J. Astore

My dad liked to save things, so today I came across an old pamphlet from 1940 or so that contained the Pledge of Allegiance as it was then. Here it is:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

It’s a good pledge, I think, though it’s wordy and focused on a piece of cloth. How about something like this instead?

I pledge allegiance to our republic, our unity, and our love of liberty and justice for all.

I think that captures the meaning of the Pledge, assuming we feel the need to have one.

You’ll note, of course, what’s missing: the idea our nation is “under God.” That sentiment was added only in the 1950s in response to McCarthyism and fears of communism. If you’re committed to God’s commands, especially His call to love thy neighbor, you really don’t need to brag about it in the Pledge. Of course, many Americans believe in gods, or no god at all, so an inclusive pledge of unity shouldn’t mention god at all.

My father’s generation endured the Great Depression and helped to win World War II, arguably the last war America truly won, without constantly pledging they were “under God.” We should follow their example.

Addendum: When I last wrote a column on the Pledge, a savvy reader made this comment: I remember from grade school when Under God was added. It was shortly after Under Your Desks.