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A Promise of Loyalty – The Pledge of Allegiance

There are many ways to show patriotism. Every culture has different ways of showing loyalty to their country. There are songs, colors, flags, holidays, and pledges.

Most countries have some form of a pledge of allegiance. There are different terms for a “pledge of allegiance”: loyalty oath, oath of allegiance, or an oath of citizenship.

Canada’s oath of allegiance goes like this: “I, [name], do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors. So help me God.”

As Americans most of us know our pledge of allegiance by heart. “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.”

We say the pledge often, but do we really know what it means, where it came from, and the changes it has undergone? Have you ever considered the pledge from a Christian point of view? I have often wondered if it is appropriate for a Christian to say. But as we consider the pledge of allegiance, we will see that that it has a place in the lives of Americans and also Christian Americans.

The pledge of allegiance was first written in August 1892 by a man named Francis Bellamy. Bellamy was a Baptist minister, a socialist and the cousin of Edward Bellamy, who was a well-known socialist novelist.

According to Francis Bellamy’s recollections, America was in a patriotic low in the early 1890s. He said, “The time was ripe for a reawakening of simple Americanism and the leaders in the new movement rightly felt that patriotic education should begin in the public schools.”

Bellamy and a man named James Upham were hired by the owner of Youth’s Companion, a famous children’s magazine. The Youth’s Companion had begun a campaign to get American flags in every school in America. By 1892 they had sold about 26,000 flags to schools. Upham had the idea of using the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ reaching the Americas to get more flag sales. In the magazine they encouraged children to participate in a Columbian public school celebration to coincide with the World’s Columbian Exposition. A short pledge would be part of this Columbus Day celebration.

Bellamy was in charge of this pledge. His finished product was one line long: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The pledge was published in the September 8, 1892 issue of the Youth’s Companion and was put to use during the celebration.

While children faced their school’s new flag, arms extended, watching it rise up the pole, they recited the new pledge they had read in their magazines.

But this was not the end of the story for the pledge of allegiance. After receiving very little attention for almost 25 years, it underwent its first change. On Flag Day, June 14, 1923, a conference was held in Washington D.C. A concern was raised with the pledge where it said, “to my flag.” With so many immigrants in the U.S at that time, it was a concern that they would think of the flag of their native country. So it was changed to say, “to the flag of the United States.” The following year “of America” was added.

The pledge remained unofficial until June 22, 1942, when the congress added it to the United States Flag code. It was officially given the title “The Pledge of Allegiance”.

The last change given to the pledge was on Flag Day, 1954. President Eisenhower approved adding the words “under God”. He said, “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.” This addition has caused much controversy over the years.  Many say that there ought to be separation between church and state. Others say that it helps remind us that our nation is forever under God’s control. Atheists argue that religion should not be forced on them by the pledge. It seems that this will always be a controversy, especially as our nation grows increasingly wicked.

As children, we have often said the pledge. But how many of us actually understood what we were saying? In order to discover whether or not we ought to say this pledge, we should break it down and discover its meaning.

First, we should define a pledge and what it is to make allegiance. The word pledge is defined as “a solemn promise or undertaking.” Words such as promise, vow, and commitment serve as synonyms of  the word pledge.

An allegiance is “loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior or of an individual to a group or cause”. Synonyms include words such as loyalty, obedience, and devotion.

  1. Evans defined the pledge this way in his article, “What The Pledge Means”: “In other words the pledge says: I promise to follow and obey the laws of the land, to never renounce, desert, or betray the Republic of the United States of America which cannot be split into parts. I acknowledge that the people and government are dependent upon a supernatural being and I will strive to ensure equality and freedom for all citizens.”

Now that we understand what the pledge means, we can consider it deeper. Can we and should we, as Christians, make this allegiance?

Our nation has changed much since its origin. The United States stood for things that we as Christians could agree with: freedom of speech and religion, freedom to disagree and call things evil. Children were counted a blessing and marriage was nothing to scoff at. Religion was important and respected. The United States of today is much different. The freedom of our speech and religion is in question. Tolerance is the new “love,” and sin has become the norm. Children are murdered by the millions and marriage is merely a tradition and comes later in a relationship. Religion is minimal and the religious are looked at as strange. Our government is perverse. We live in a wicked nation.

Do we owe allegiance to such a country? Can we as Christians promise obedience and loyalty to a nation such as the United States?

We must remember that our first allegiance is to God. By his grace he saved us. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20) Because of that we are called to be thankful. “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Col. 3:15)

When our first allegiance is to God, that means that we obey him before any earthly authorities. When we are commanded to do anything against God and his law, we are called to disobey. But even in this, we must remember that God has placed those men as our authorities. Therefore, in obeying their decrees, we obey God’s will. The Belgic Confession, article 36 expounds on this truth.

God has placed us in this nation. He has used the United States for much good. He has used the freedoms we enjoy for the furtherance of his truth, and he is still granting us the use of these freedoms today. With a right understanding we can place our right hands over our hearts and promise to obey and be loyal to our nation that truly is “under God”. Romans 13: 1–7 supports this view. Verse seven says, “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

As our country continues to grow increasingly evil we must never lose sight of our God, to whom our true allegiance is due. When authorities make laws that we cannot obey and will be punished for, the Lord will be near and he will give us strength.

While we enjoy the freedoms that the United States of America offers us, let us be thankful, obey God first and foremost, and honor the country he has given us by saying the pledge of allegiance.

Works Cited

  • Wikipedia contributors, Pledge of Allegiance. 14 November 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance>
  • org, “The Pledge of Allegiance”. Historic Documents. Copyright 1995-2013. <http://www.ushistory.org/documents/pledge.htm>
  • Google, “Pledge”, <http://www.google.com/#q=what+is+a+pledge%3F>
  • Google, “Allegiance”, <http://www.google.com/#q=what+is+allegiance>
  • Greenhouse, Linda. “One Crucial Issue in Pledge Case: What Does ‘Under God’ Mean?” The New York Times, 22 March 2004.
  • Evans, J. “What The Pledge Means”. PDF. 28 August 2012. <http://www.restorethepledge.org/What%20The%20Pledge%20Means.pdf>
  • Baer, John W., Dr. “The Pledge of Allegiance: A Short History”. PDF Copyright 1992 by Dr. John W. Baer
  • Wikipedia contributors, Francis Bellamy. 14 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bellamy>
  • Key, Steven, Rev. “LD37, Day 5: God’s All Seeing Eyes” Meditations 14 September <http://www.prca.org/resources/categories/meditations/heidelberg-catechism-meditations/item/2942-September-14-Id-37-day-5-god-s-all-seeing-eyes>
  • Wikipedia contributors, Oath of Allegiance (Canada). 9 September 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_Allegiance_(Canada)>
  • com, <http://www.ask.com/question/do-other-countries-have-a-pldege-of-allegiance>
  • The King James Version Bible. Bible Gateway.Web.
  • Swanson, June. I Pledge Allegiance. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 1990.