Thursday, September 15, 2005

Waiting for wailing

I'm waiting for the cry to go up.

"We're turning away from God"

I'm waiting for the anger.

"Liberal judges are destroying our nation"

All because of two words.

"Under God"

A federal judge on the west coast has ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance as it stands today is unconstitutional because it infringes on the rights of school children to be " from a coercive requirement to affirm God." The ruling at the moment affects only a couple of school districts out there. When it is appealed, if it is upheld, it will affect only nine western states. At which point it will go to the Supreme Court of the United States. All of which is a ways away.

So here are my thoughts on the subject:

The front man for this is Dr. Michael Newdow, an atheist, who attempted to do the exact same thing last year on behalf of his daughter. The Supreme Court would not consider the case since Newdow doesn't have custody of the girl and therefore has no legal right to speak for her. Now he's back representing three families from the Sacramento area. While I respect his right to object to the two words (more on that in a second) I get a strong feeling that he's grandstanding. He's a hard guy to get warm fuzzy feelings about for me. Of course that doesn't mean he's wrong.

At a surface reading it would appear that he's got this one absolutely right. The separation of church and state is fundamentally about government not establishing a national religion. These two words, which do NOT appear in the original pledge, was inserted by an official act of government. It was passed in 1954 by Congress as a bulwark against "Godless Communism". A fairly idiotic idea in its own right but that's another topic. The government has inserted into a pledge a two word statement that clearly indicates the government believes in God. That pledge is taught to children at a very early age by schools(basically another governmental agency). Children still pretty much do what their teachers tell them to do so the concept that some elementary school child is going to stand up and refuse is pretty remote. The idea that there's not a coercive element to having that child "simply not say it" while EVERY OTHER CHILD IN THE ROOM does is fairly silly.

But whatever the legal arguments my real irritation is with my fellow children of God. This ruling and the following appeals process is going to bring on an absolute storm of hoo-haw. I will restrain myself from voicing more cynical and sarcastic thoughts and stick to this:

If our children, our nation and our faith are actually balanced on the infinite thinness of whether or not they say "Under God" while pledging allegiance to our nation's flag then we're a sad and pitiful bunch. The pledge is a civic act, it is an act of patriotism. When we confuse God and Country we're headed into a very bad place. The pledge is an act of the citizenry re-affirming our commitment to our way of life. A way of life that includes believers and un-believers and attempts to put them on equal footing. Except that all too often when we come to issues like this the truth comes out:
As long as you're well behaved and quiet, as long as you don't expect us to really take you seriously (or your beliefs) we'll let you play along. But don't cross us. We're the majority and we will force you to do things our way.

My child will survive without those words, words quite honestly she probably stopped thinking about and maybe even saying years ago. Her faith life has nothing to do with whether those words are there or not.

My nation will survive without those words. It survived between 1892 (when the pledge was written by a Baptist minister) and 1954 when it was changed by Congress. For all the "value" of those two little words there seems to be plenty of room for spiritual improvement in our national life so I doubt they've made that big a positive influence. Or are we really going to argue that those two words are the last defense that have held back an even worse spiritual condition for our nation?

My church (the church universal) will survive without those words. All the church needs is God. And last I knew God did very well without the assistance of our pledge of allegiance.

If parents and churches are doing their jobs properly then our children are getting all the spiritual guidance, influence and reinforcement they need. If the best we can do is two words in a morning pledge we should be ashamed of ourselves. If the only reason we want those words included is so everyone knows we believe then we're just as guilty of grandstanding as I believe Dr. Newdow is.

But wait for it, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth is coming. I can hear it already.


No comments: