Pledging Allegiance

George Washington presiding the Philadelphia Convention for the signing of the Constitution of the United States. Artist: Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952). In the public domain.

by Kathie MM

The Pledge of Allegiance is not sacrosanct. Within my lifetime, the words “Under God” were added to the Pledge because Congress and the President wanted to differentiate the US from the godless Communists.

Here is my recommendation for an updated Pledge:

I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it’s the guide, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty, justice, and equal rights for all.

Pledging allegiance to a flag is not a good idea. Flags are symbols that are too easily manipulated, used to whip up armies and compel people towards violence.

What Americans should pledge allegiance to is the Constitution—an imperfect but perfectible document created by dedicated freedom fighters desiring a more perfect union and wise enough to provide mechanisms for reforming and ripening the fruit of their labors.

Let’s replace “for which it stands” with “for which it’s the guide”; we should not stand still, mired in dirty politics, but instead move toward the more perfect union envisioned, at least vaguely, by  founders of our government; there is much in our evolving Constitution to provide guidance.

“Under God”—a controversial term. Organized religion, like other self-promoting hierarchies, has fed divisiveness and violence over the centuries; however, if there is a God, and only one God, then all believers  have faith in the same God, by whatever name they use and however much they want to assume God plays favorites. Plus, reverence for a Higher Power that makes all living things sacred is more life-enhancing than idolizing money and power.

“Liberty and justice for all” have too often been denied, but they, along with equal rights, must still be the goals towards which we pledge our allegiance. A more perfect union will be an indivisible multi-hued union of all living things, interdependent,valued, and mutually sustaining.


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5 Responses to Pledging Allegiance

  1. Many thanks for your astute reflection on “The Pledge”, Kathie. I agree it needs revising. Pledging allegiance to a flag is inherently absurd, because a flag is nothing more than a symbol, and to make a symbol sacred is nothing less than idolatry. How oxymoronic indeed, then, that politicians who want to make the flag sacred also want to put The Ten Commandments on the walls of classrooms. Meanwhile, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the land is laid to waste. Which is why God does not bless America; more to the point is the bumper sticker that reads: “God is coming, and boy, is She mad.” “Under God” was inserted into The Pledge during the Eisenhower Administration, contradicting the Founding Fathers’ rightful separation of Church and State. “Under God” is a nefarious phrase, as intellectually dishonest and jingoistically infantile as the current postage stamps which read “America Forever.” Meanwhile, here’s my own revision of The Pledge, somewhat different than yours but much in the same spirit: “I pledge allegiance to the planet, and to all the people and creatures on her; one ecosystem, universally sacred, with nourishment and beauty for all.” A sense of planetary citizenship is our best and perhaps only hope for survival, as pledging allegiance to any particular nation-state undermines our necessary sense of global responsibility and universal brother -sisterhood.

    • kathiemm says:

      thanks, Stefan. I love your revision! Better than mine. I hope other readers will send their suggestions for revised Pledges of Allegiance.

    • Barbara says:

      Stefan’s revision wins my vote. I remember reading of a youngster who recited the pledge with this variation: . . . “And to the republic for Richard Stands.” Another thing I remember is my embarrassment at being expected to place my hand on my budding breast. Surely this was an act one should perform, if one absolutely must, in private! And now we have people getting harassed because they choose to kneel during the Pledge. I thought kneeling–e.g., at a gravesite–was a mark of respect.

  2. LB says:

    Related to this, today I happened upon an online paper written in 1952 by Martin Luther King, Jr., titled: “Reinhold Niebuhr’s Ethical Dualism” in which Dr. King discusses and reflects on Niebuhr’s thoughts about the difference between justice and love (which I found profoundly insightful), as well as the role of society and government, their respective limitations and potentials.

    In attempting to offer up a 3rd way ~I’m assuming as a non-dualistic or less dualistic alternative to the question of justice or love~ Dr. King added his own thoughts about the overlooked transformative power of divine Agape ~ which I personally believe can only be achieved within the individual.

    The paper is deep, demanding and provocative, definitely worth an uninterrupted read. Although I respect *many* of Niebuhr’s ideas, I’m not sure I agree with the larger point he tries to make about the role of government.

    I think I’d rather pledge my allegiance to and be guided by the all-loving, all-inclusive and divine force known as Agape, which Martin Luther King, Jr. defined as being “. . . the love of God operating in the human heart.”

    The following quotes are excerpts from the article:

    “Niebuhr freely admits that justice is morally inferior to equality in love, but one still has the moral responsibility to choose a “second best.” One must realistically adjust himself to the fact that the ethic which controls the individual cannot inform the group. The individual ethic “is oriented by only one vertical religious reference, to the will of God; and the will of God is defined in terms of all-inclusive love.”\[Footnote:] ICE, 51\ Consequently, the group lacks the organs of self-transcendence to understand agape. And “the larger the group the more difficult it is to achieve a common mind and purpose and the more inevitably will it be unified by momentary impulses and immediate and unreflective purposes.”\[Footnote:] MMIS, 48\ Justice is a this-worldly value; agape is an eternal value which only the initiated understand and strive for.

    Niebuhr makes it quite clear, however, that justice is never discontinuously related to love. Justice is a negative application of love. Whereas love seeks out the needs of others, justice limits freedom to prevent its infringement upon the rights and privileges of others. Justice is a check (by force, if necessary) upon ambitions of individuals seeking to overcome their own insecurity at the expense of others. Justice is love’s message for the collective mind.1”

    “Niebuhr makes it quite clear that government, although holy as an instrument for restraining the sinful, must never be looked upon as divine. The individuals reverence for government extends only as far as the purpose for which that unit was created. When the government pretends to be divine, the Christian serves God rather than man. The Christian must constantly maintain a “dialectical” attitude toward government while the collective ego remains within its bounds, while being critical whenever these bounds are overpassed.”

    • kathiemm says:

      Dear LB, thank you for your rich, informative, and engaging comment on the Pledge post. I loved your suggestion for a Pledge: “I’d rather pledge my allegiance to and be guided by the all-loving, all-inclusive and divine force known as Agape, which Martin Luther King, Jr. defined as being “. . . the love of God operating in the human heart.” I also appreciated your discussion of agape love, and always appreciate references to the immortal work of MLK–thanks for that link as well. We have missed you greatly at engaging peace. Welcome back!

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