In 1892, a 37-year-old minister named Francis Bellamy authored the Pledge of Allegiance as part of a national patriotic school program. The plan was for schoolchildren across the country to recite in unison this new promise to the American flag.
In his book “To the Flag: The Unlikely History of the Pledge of Allegiance,” Richard Ellis writes that the creation of the pledge actually reflected “two widespread anxieties among native-born Americans.” The first was the fear new immigrants would not assimilate well and the second was the complacency of post-Civil War Americans oblivious to the dangers facing our country. Bellamy’s pledge was designed to “Americanize” the foreigner and to rekindle patriotism among Americans.
The pledge and the posture that we use while saying the pledge has been adjusted slightly through the years. When Bellamy’s pledge was first recited, the palm of the hand was extended toward the flag, but during WWII that gesture looked too much like the Nazi salute so Americans adopted the custom of placing their hand over their heart while reciting the pledge. The pledge took on its final change in 1954 when President Eisenhower presented the idea to Congress to add the words “under God” to it. Eisenhower said the addition of “under God” would “reaffirm the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future” and “strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.” Congress’ 1954 amendment would create the Pledge of Allegiance that Americans recite today: “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.”
Our nation, which is greatly divided, has just been through an emotional and relentless political campaign where many contests on the local, state and national level crossed the line of civility. Many Americans were hoping that after Tuesday emotions and political rhetoric would settle down. We were looking forward to mending fences and moving forward as a nation. Yet, rioting in the streets of our nation in protest to the outcome of Tuesday’s elections has continued after the election ended. Today, Americans remain divided. We are divided along political lines, racial lines, socio-economic lines, gender lines and even church denominational lines. I see greater division in our nation than at any other time in my lifetime. America today is a long way from being “one nation under God.”
When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment in the Law, he responded (Matthew 22:37-40): “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Today, my heart longs to see Americans at peace with God and at peace with each other. We will only find lasting reconciliation with one another after we are first reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Once we understand that we are loved by God and then accept His offer of forgiveness of our sin, we will then have the power through the ministry of the Holy Spirit to love each other. It is my prayer that all Americans will come together in the days ahead as “one nation under God” for our good and the good of future generations.
Chuck Sprouse, a resident of Greenwood, is the senior pastor of the Ninety Six First Baptist Church. You can reach him at email@example.com or 864-543-2333.