As David Waters (from the Newsweek On Faith Blog) would tell it, the clause “Under God” in the pledge of allegiance was added when we, as a nation, were in a pitched battle with atheistic communism. Now that atheism is winning (some might argue that communism succeeds as well), it is time to give up on God.
Rev. George M. Docherty, who was instrumental in have the phrase “Under God” inserted in the pledge dies this past Thanksgiving. Waters tells it this way.
Docherty’s contribution to American civil religion came during a sermon he preached at Washington’s New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in honor of Lincoln’s birthday in 1954, the height of the Second Red Scare. As Post reporter Matt Shudel notes in Sunday’s obituary, Docherty, a native of Scotland, argued that the then-godless American pledge could just as easily apply to the communist Soviet Union.
“I could hear little Muscovites recite a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag with equal solemnity,” said Docherty. He suggested adding Lincoln’s phrase “under God” from the Gettysburg Address to the pledge. “To omit the words ‘Under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance is to omit the definitive character of the American Way of Life.”
Maybe then. Not now.
Waters contends that because we are a more pluralistic society than in 1954, inclusion of the phrase somehow undermines the citizenship of the 20% who are not Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish. He tries to confuse with statistics. Citing stats that claim that in 1954 only 5% of the population was not Catholic, Protestant, Or Jewish. Today he purports that number is 20%. But in that 20% are not just the atheist or agnostic, but Mormon, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu. I suppose that Waters thinks that somehow your average Mormon or Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu would somehow object to the phrase albeit all evidence to the contrary.
The only people objecting to “Under God” are the atheists. This phrase does absolutely nothing to undermine their citizenship. In fact, it is where they get their rights as citizens whether they believe it or not.
I suspect that Waters surmises the weakness of this argument, so he turns to fear. The real threat, it turns out are believers. (No, to my knowledge this is not ghost written by Kathleen Parker) Mr. Waters is nothing if not unoriginal.
Second, the greatest threat to American freedom is no longer godless communism but “godly” terrorism — people who pledge their allegiance to God. Docherty noted that even Stalin’s Soviet Union could claim to be “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Today, even a Taliban-led Afghanistan could claim to be “one nation, under God.”
In his 1954 sermon, Docherty argued that Judeo-Christian America was engaged in “mortal combat against modern, secularized, godless humanity.” Today, pluralistic America is engaged in mortal combat against anti-modern, fundamentalist, religionized humanity.
In case you missed the nuance, to believe that this is one nation under God in to be an anti-modern fundamentalist. (Oogedy-boogedy in Parker-speak)
It should come as no surprise that I contend that Waters has got it all backwards. It it isn’t just that we should keep the phrase in the pledge, which we should, but that we should act as if we really believe it.
It is the march of godless secularism that the anti-modern hordes (that Waters so fears) rightly surmise is our greatest weakness. If we had the courage of our convictions ….scratch that. If we actually had convictions, the anti-modern hordes would know that their time is nigh.
Never before have we needed more to be One Nation, Under God. So let’s leave the pledge alone. We need all the help we can get.