July 01, 2002
Two Little Words

The hub-bub over the past week has been over Two Little Words. "Oh, just ignore it, it's unimportant given the current war on terror," is something I've heard a lot in the blogosphere. "Let it go," people say.

"This is political correctness run amok," is another theme running wild across the country. All because of Two Little Words.

"under God"

Who knew two words could have so much power? I'll submit that even one of the words -- God -- is the true power of the phrase. But why? Why is this such a lightning rod for such heated arguments from people who normally are quiet and calm?

It's because so many of us have been inculcated to the point where even questioning the removal of the two words is seen as un-patriotic. I beg to differ, though -- questioning why the words are there to begin with is the patriotic path. Question authority. Do not accept as given what you are taught from a young age.

"under God"

The history of how these words were added to the Pledge has already been covered by others both here and elsewhere, so there's no need to go over that ground again. Instead, let's look a little closer at some of the uses of the word "God" in our national dialogue.

It's been brought up repeatedly that the Declaration of Independence uses the word. Yes, it does use it. It can even be said that the Constitution does, in the phrase, "In the year of Our Lord." Arguing the latter is pointless, given that the modern calendar in use at the time was built around the time of Christ. The modern usages of B.C.E. and C.E. (Before Current Era and Current Era) have gained much use in the past twenty or so years, many of them long before the cult of Political Correctness was born.

In the Declaration, one has to examine the men who wrote it. Many of the Founding Fathers were deists, and didn't subscribe to the more common Christian beliefs.

What about Presidential Inaugurations? "So help me God" ends each one. They're not written into them -- Washington added it at the end of his swearing in, and every President has copied it since. That's a personal statement made by the man, not a national policy.

I've seen the Gettysburg Address quoted heavily as well, particularly the line, "that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom." Context is of the utmost importance. Lincoln was first and foremost a deist as well, going so far as to write a manuscript that argued against the divinity of Christ and the divine inspiration of the Bible. His use of "God," "Divine Providence" and other phrases was consistent with his deistic leanings and the various religious views of his constituents. His usage of the phrases was during a time of great strife and was done as a balm for the people -- part of the war effort, such as it were.

The Constitution (with the one exception noted above) is a document expressly created to divide the powers of church from the powers of state. Again, that the very first line of the First Amendment contains this separation is intentional.

If the Founding Fathers deemed it important enough, shouldn't we?

That a court has seen fit to undo the political machinations of the Knights of Columbus some fifty years ago can only be a good thing. There are over fifty different religions practiced in the United States, of which only a few actually call the principle deity, "God." How is it fair to the Buddhists, the Sikhs, the Hindus, the pagans, the atheists, and yes, even the Muslims, to say, "one nation, under God?" I know you've all seen it, said it or read it -- how is it fair? This isn't political correctness -- this is understanding the realities of America, 2002. If we leave this in the Pledge, how can we say, "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free," when the Pledge implicitly excludes those of other faiths?

Are we a nation with such hubris that we believe that "God" is on our side? Well, yes, but that's for another blog entry.

For the record, I don't buy into the concept of "god transcendant," or God Above. I prefer "god/dess immanent," or the deity is within me. This over/under thing is yet another of the traps of the Christian theology, which, again, is for another blog entry on another day.

Two little words. They weren't meant to be there to begin with, and the Pledge was without them for roughly sixty years. They were then in the Pledge for another fifty. Which, I ask you, is more historical then? Based on that poll at Vote.com, most folks don't know their history.

So for those of you who feel that belittlement and nastiness is the appropriate response to those who wish to have a measured discussion on this issue, pause a think on the real history of the words and of this country. Learn about the Founding Fathers and find out their true beliefs before making assumptions. Pick up a book about Lincoln, Paine, or Jefferson and get a feel for those who shaped this country.

Though I have to admit, "one nation, under Cernunnos" has a very nice ring to it . . .

Posted by at July 01, 2002 10:13 PM
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