The Attack on the Pledge: Both Bad and Good?
As a naturalized citizen from a country that, overnight, lost its liberty to Hitler's occupying forces, I don't take freedom for granted. My father had barely begun his first engineering job when he volunteered for Norway's underground army and joined the deadly fight against Nazi totalitarianism. He survived torture and deprivation in three concentration camps, then discovered a more subtle battle: the creeping socialism of post-war Europe. Eventually he moved his family to America, and we learned to appreciate the courage and hard-fought triumphs of our adoptive land's founding fathers as much, if not more than, many native-born Americans.
It's no secret that America has shifted far from her early foundation. Historical ignorance, moral apathy and the growing lust for feel-good myths and politically correct illusions all tend to veil today's erosion of truth and the growing hostility toward the God we love.
But, once in a while, the symptoms of the spreading deformation erupt into our media-driven public consciousness. And, few of those eruptions shake our sensibilities more dramatically than the sudden ban on the Pledge of Allegiance in the classrooms of nine Western states. The Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had stepped on one of the tender spots still left in America's collective conscience.
In many ways, that's good. The outrageous prohibition stirred a sense of loyalty to a set of old principles and convictions that we all too easily take for granted and forget to guard. Perhaps, like the sleeping giant awakened to action through the attack on Pearl Harbor, America sees a battle worth fighting. Better yet, from coast to coast, Christians are prompted to consider what it means to be "a nation under God" in today's pluralistic global community.
So what does it mean? What do we, as a nation, now believe or disbelieve about the God who established our nation? What is the status of our Constitution in this postmodern world that twists facts and denies absolute truths? What is the state of our nation today, and where do we go from here?
First, the bad news:
1. The Constitution: The Bill of Rights has already been revised almost beyond recognition. As leaders and teachers embraced the illusions of modern liberalism, our courts followed suit. Little by little, the original intent was forgotten, drowned in a flood of evolving interpretations and "progressive" ideals. Now, the Constitutional edicts originally intended to protect the people from an intrusive government have become tools to do the opposite.
That's what happened to the First Amendment. It never mentioned "separation of church and state." Instead, it forbids Congress from making any laws "respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Having escaped English injustice, our founders sought protection from government control over religion. They wanted freedom to exercise their faith and had no desire to use the new government to restrict religious expression.
California's irrational Court of Appeals turned the original intent upside down. Following the legal trends of the last century, it barred "the free exercise thereof" under the banner of a mythical establishment clause designed by socialist change agents to eradicate the influence of Biblical truth and morality from coast to coast.
George Washington warned us that this might happen. In his Farewell Address, he said,
"One method of assault may be to effect in the forms of the Constitution alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown...."
2. The balance of power: Though likely to be short-lived, this June 26 ruling shows how the balance of powers between federal, legislative and judicial branches of government has been blurred. Instead of applying laws written by Congress, liberal courts reinterpret laws in such a way that they actually create new laws that fit their political agenda.
Again, George Washington's insights could have saved the day:
"...the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism....
"Let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed...."
3. Intimidation and compromise: After decades of mind-changing intimidation and consensus thinking (don't offend, argue, disagree, mention contrary facts or absolutes...) few dare fight for Biblical values. After all, taking an unpopular stand could offend the group or community. George Washington warned us it would happen:
"Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests."
But here is the good news: The bad news produces...
1. Alertness: Realizing how easily human managers can trade our precious freedom for tempting visions of solidarity and security, we become all the more alert to deception. Let us heed the words of James Madison: "I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation."
2. Insight: Reminded that we were a "nation under God," we look to see "from where [we] have fallen" so that we might, at least in our own hearts, restore the early God-given zeal for following His way.
"When God is Lord," wrote former U.S. Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson, "then the people are qualified to manage and control their environment. When God is not Lord, then they are going to be the victims of their environment whether it's physical, political, social or whatever else."
3. Conviction: Aware of the shifting sands of social trends, we see a deeper need to take our stand on God's unchanging truths and moral standards. Encouraging us to live as "a nation under God," George Washington said in his Farewell Address,
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness - these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. … And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion."
4. Determination: Saddened by the growing hostility toward God's name and honor, we determine all the more to express our loyalty and thanks to the God who established our nation and its courts on the certainties of His Word.
But living as uncompromising Christians may become increasingly difficult in the months and years ahead. For a battle is raging all around us. Growing ever more intense, this battle is not "against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness...." [Eph 6:12-13]
"The real conflict is spiritual," wrote Chaplain Halverson. "The real enemy is invisible. His masterpiece is his incognito. His most subtle strategy is to convince us of his nonexistence." And he has been gaining much ground in America in the last century.
Yet we need not fear. "You are of God," wrote the apostle John, "...and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world." 1 John 4:4
5. Kindness: Having heard the chorus of diverse voices that rose in response to the edict, we want to show care and concern of all people -- even if we can't agree with their understanding of God. "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up...." 1 Corinthians 13:4
6. Gratefulness: Awakened to the high cost and fragile nature of our freedom, we treasure the gift God has given us all the more -- and thank Him with all our hearts. "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever." Romans 11:33-36
7. Celebration: May the Maker of this great land show us special ways to honor Him as our Provider on the Fourth of July. Only He can renew our hearts and protect us from our enemies.
"In September 2013, a case was brought before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, arguing that the pledge violates the Equal Rights Amendment of the Constitution of Massachusetts. In May 2014, Massachusetts' highest court ruled that the pledge does not discriminate against atheists, saying that the words 'under God' represent a patriotic, not a religious, exercise." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance
“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?"
America, The Beautiful
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
1. "England had an established religion, supported by the taxpayers and with its members given privileges denied to members of other congregations. Since the people who wrote the Constitution of the United States were Englishmen, they knew exactly what they meant when they said that they wanted no establishment of religion in the United States. Wise men wrote the Constitution, but clever judges have been destroying it, bit by bit, turning it into an instrument of arbitrary judicial power, instead of a limitation on all government power." Thomas Sowell, "Religion and the Constitution.
2. George Washington, Farewell Address.
3. "...we must not lose sight of the fact that Judge Goodwin's opinion relied on fifty years of Supreme Court Establishment Clause jurisprudence, beginning with the 1947 Everson v. Board of Education case. The Pledge simply failed to pass the three leading Establishment Clause tests invented by the Supreme Court. Indeed, the Circuit Court's opinion makes perfect sense if one accepts the modern liberal premise that religion and morality are incompatible with free society and ought to be driven out of the public square." From Courts Show Us The Crisis Of Our Time by Thomas L. Krannawitter, Claremont Institute Precepts, June 28, 2002.
4. James Madison, Virginia Convention, June 16, 1788.
5. Revelation 2:5
6. Richard Halverson, We the People (Regal Books, 1987), page 125.
7. Ibid., page 52.
On New Year's Day, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson wrote the letter below to the Danbury Baptist Association in the state of Connecticut. In it, he used the words, "wall of separation between church and state." That wall was intended to protect religious freedom and expression by preventing the government from interfering in religious matters. It was never intended to block expressions of faith -- either at home or in public places. Thomas Jefferson, like George Washington, often mentioned God in his public speeches and political statements as well as in personal letters.