"One Nation Under God?"
Reflections on the Pledge of Allegiance
by Jo Reaves
The current episode regarding "the flag of the United States of America" and the "Pledge of Allegiance" to it, is disconcerting and disturbing for a number of reasons--some obvious and some not so obvious. While thinking about writing this "reflection," I had fruitful and lively discussions with friends and co-laborers. The following comments are concerns and insights shared among us.
A National Outrage & Outcry
There is a national outcry as many have become outraged by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' (now stayed) decision to remove from America's Pledge of Allegiance, the time-cherished and sacrosanct words "under God" in the phrase "One nation under God."
It is as if our national boat has been capsized by one man in California who dared to challenge one of our national sacred cows. To some of us, it came as no great surprise, but seems inevitable as part of a trend we've been seeing (sadly) in our country for decades.
Someone wrote, "I'd heard of this earlier and signed petitions to keep it in. It's so disgusting. I think if this is taken out, it will be the end of the U.S. as we know it." The end of the U.S. as we know it? I'm afraid this is a case of too little, too late. The end of the U.S. as we knew it has long since taken place. This latest episode is just one more step in dismantling our Judeo-Christian heritage, and moving us further toward United Nations global citizenship, away from national sovereignty.
One astute columnist aptly stated, "Let's remember that in 1962 and 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prayer in the schools was unconstitutional. The fact that it took nearly 40 years for the other shoe to drop is something of a surprise."
Yes, surely things are going downhill no matter what we do. Call it inevitable. All we can really do--each of us who is a true Christian--is maintain our personal testimony in the face of the slippery slide toward globalism and apostasy--both predicted in the Bible for the end-times. None who knows the Scriptures will dispute the signs of the times in which we live.
Life in the 50s with the Pledge
I grew up in the 50s and 60s when a typical school day began with my right hand over my heart as I stood with my fellow classmates to faithfully recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The words, "under God" added by Congress in 1954 helped to make us conscious of God in public life.
In my own family, typical of most of the families I knew and grew up with, we attended church and Sunday School every Sunday. We said grace before meals. I said my "prayers" every night under the loving care of one or both parents.
Christmas was a special delight as we decorated a fresh evergreen tree, displayed colorful holiday wreaths, excitedly exchanged gifts, and enthusiastically sang carols. We read the "Christmas story" from the Gospel of Matthew on Christmas Eve before we drove to church.
We enjoyed Santa, but "baby Jesus" wasn't left out. He had equal holiday standing, but wasn't as much fun as Jolly Old St. Nick. We tied our secular and spiritual worlds together in one holiday package neatly fitting together our cultural traditions and national religion.
In the Spring, we celebrated Easter with baskets filled to the brim with colorful straw paper, decorated eggs, jelly beans, and chocolate bunnies. We dressed for church in our finest Easter outfits, complete with bonnets, white shoes and white gloves.
My friends and their families held the same traditions, and we were among the majority. Suzie, Tipper, Nancy and I--the foursome in our neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia--celebrated the national holidays together, played together, walked to school together, and said the pledge together. Little did we know that sweet and thoughtful little Tipper would grow up to be Mrs. Albert Gore. In the 50s, we were all sweet children, and we felt a certain security being "under God."
A National Religion
We were reverent and sincere in practicing our rituals. They gave us comfort and structure. Mostly, they quietly whispered to our hearts that all was well. But, realistically, for my family (I can't speak for my friends and their families), all was NOT well. Our national religion deceived us into thinking we were Christians, when, in fact, we were NOT!
Being a patriotic American meant acting out these rituals as part of our national religion. We were "good Christians" and "good Americans." To be one without the other was inconceivable. Love of God and country, going to church, reciting the Pledge, and celebrating religious and national holidays were all part of American life.
We weren't like "those evil godless communists" who caused us to endure mock atomic bomb attacks in school, hiding under our desks. In fact, the words "under God" were inserted in the Pledge for that very reason--to differentiate us from "them." Nationalism, Patriotism and Religion were merged.
The Emperor Constantine of Rome in the fourth century A.D. nationalized Christianity for the first time. The whole concept of a national religion goes against the biblical truth that the Church, the Bride of Christ, is His Remnant, made up of sojourners and pilgrims, not members of a national movement. It seems so close to the objective of the Manifest Sons of God/Dominion/Kingdom Now/Reconstructionists: to have a "Christianized society." It is simply not realistic or biblical.
One of the problems with a national religion is that it deceives some people into believing they're truly Christians. My family and I were examples of that. On the other hand, some people KNOW that they're only adherents by convenience and cultural identity. Either way, it's a deadly snare with eternal consequences.
A Form of Godliness
We talked about God as part of our public and private lives. But sadly, few of us actually had a saving knowledge of God through His Son Jesus Christ. We had what the Bible calls "a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (II Timothy 3:5).
We had head knowledge and acknowledged God in public life and in school. But, this head knowledge inoculated us from actually accepting and believing the True Gospel. It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I actually heard the claims of Jesus Christ for the first time, and realized I needed to give more than intellectual assent. I repented, I counted the cost, and I believed in Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I gave Him my heart, my will and my life. I'm still discovering and understanding how it's worked out on a daily basis.
God Meant Jesus Then
Back in the 50s and 60s, we had no doubts or confusion about God's identity. He was (and is) the only True God Almighty and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the One we were "under" in our Pledge. I've since read that the "God" on our coins and dollar bills is the “New Age/New World Order God--the God of the Masons," not the Judeo-Christian God. But, not to us!
We NEVER would have mistaken God to be Allah or Krishna, or Buddha, or Zeus, or any other false identity. We hadn't been told by anyone that there are "many paths to God." We knew who the Judeo-Christian God was. Is was automatically assumed that "under God" meant "under Jesus." The fading of that presumption is a sign of the present-day apostasy.
Christianity, in particular, is what's being chased out of the public arena. Not religion! It's not just "any god," but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob Who's no longer welcome --the God Who "sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not die, but have everlasting life" (Jn 3:16).
The Ecumenical and Interfaith "God" of Today
Today in schools, reciting the Pledge means being in the presence of children who define "God" in different ways. Today's children have been taught they can invoke God in anyway they choose.
After the tragedy of September 11, interfaith and ecumenical prayer services were held all over our country. The service at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. stands out in my mind. Many clerics--Protestants, Roman Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims, each one presuming to represent their version of "God" took part in the prayer service. "God" was called upon in unison and unity by the adherents to the various "faiths."
Even our president participated in the worship of this diluted, deluded multi-view of "God." Unlike in the 50s, there's now a choice as to whom the "God" is who is being invoked publicly. In this ecumenical prayer service, most everyone seemed equally content to call upon their version of "God" (him or her) while the person next to them called upon his own version.
Back in the 50s, we had not been taught that to be one-dimensional in one's view of God was equated with bigotry intolerance, and even hatred for others. The current politically correct way of thinking about tolerance and diversity hadn't yet muddied the waters of our national thinking about religion.
These days, to be politically correct, each person is encouraged to call upon the god of their imagination or whomever they consider to be their "higher power," assured no one's right or wrong when it comes to their own definition of God. Not so!
What Has Really Changed?
It's important that we make a distinction between who WE are as individuals, and who WE are as a nation. As individuals, we're no better off now in terms of an eternity with or without God than we were in my youth when it was safe and acceptable to pray in school and "recite" the Pledge with "under God" intact. Why? Because nominal (public) religion never saved anyone, i.e., brought anyone to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The non "politically-correct" observance of God, then, made us "appear" to be a Christian nation. That idea, however, is a total oxymoron. Nations don't have eternal souls. People do. Nations are made of people, one by one. Only people can be Christians.
The fact of the matter is that saying the Pledge of Allegiance with or without the phrase "under God" isn't going to make a person a Christian any more than it's going to make a nation Christian. It makes no difference because public (nominal) religion can't save anyone. Period! In defiance to being "under God," we've taken God out of our schools, out of our history books, and now (?) out of the Pledge. And, if some in power have their way, they'll erase Him out of our national songs, off our coins and dollar bills, and out of the opening moments when Congress and the Supreme Court convene.
If it were possible, they would erase God off the face of the earth entirely! But, none of this will make a difference when we each stand alone before Christ to give an account of why we did or did not accept God's free Gift of Salvation through the shed blood of Christ on our behalf.
The Hypocrisy of Lip Service
We "individuals" in America need to take note of what Jesus said in Matthew 15:8 & 9, when speaking to the religious crowd of His day, the scribes and Pharisees. Quoting the Old Testament prophet Isaiah: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips. But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."
There may be many churchgoers among the lot of all those who are up in arms and outraged about the notion of taking "under God" out of the Pledge or getting rid of the Pledge altogether. But, of all who proudly proclaim that we're "one nation under God," how many really know God in the only way we can know Him--through His Son, Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh? It's time to stop giving lip service, and get serious with God!
On the Other Hand ...
Nominal (public) religion never saved anyone. But, the now formal and outward denial of the GOD OF ALL HISTORY isn't to be praised as a final act of honesty (as opposed to the former hypocrisy) of those who would no longer give lip service, but deny God and Christ outright. Even the once common lip service to Christ's sovereignty is being suppressed. The Bible says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness..." (Romans 1:18).
This is significant as it moves us further down the road to full-scale national apostasy from the God of History--an apostasy which has been invading our land and, sadly, in many cases, our churches too. Make no mistake about it. This national apostasy invites God's judgment on our land, as even the very pretense of piety is being worn away. Speaking of "us" as a nation, the turning away, even from the externals of Bible religion brings severe consequences--God's fierce judgments upon "us" as a nation.
Why Keep up the Formality?
In the final analysis, it's not good that anyone consider taking "under God" out of the Pledge even if it IS lip service. It's a rejection of God as Master over the US. God notices! In the Old Testament days, There was never any eternal salvation in keeping the Law of Moses. No Jew was "eternally saved" by observing the Law. But, as a nation, they were protected and prospered by God for carefully observing the Law. The nation of Israel was cursed and punished when the people violated and snubbed the Law. God brought them to misery, death and poverty. Take note, America.
Irrelevance? Yes and No
So, let it be repeated that in terms of public religion ever bringing anyone to salvation, clearly it doesn't. True faith has nothing whatsoever to do with national song lyrics, pledges or mottos. This whole uproar is totally irrelevant to true, saving faith. For this reason, taking the words "under God" out of the Pledge is irrelevant. BUT, for the sake/safety of our nation, it's VERY relevant.
The outward rejection of God in our public life (even as lip service) signals the wholesale, national abandonment of the Godof History, and is indicative of the apostasy predicted in the Bible for the last days. It may be necessary for the hypocrisy of many to be made plain. BUT, the inclusion or the rejection of the words, "under God" is NOT irrelevant for us as a nation!
If the Charade Continues
In addition to sure, impending judgment on our nation, this will not be good for True Christians--the Remnant--for another reason. As long as the millions of "nominal Christians" continue their lip service, defending their traditions and rituals, True Christians have a certain degree of freedom to speak the Truth. Already, we know we don't have complete freedom, and that every day it seems our freedoms are being diminished, but we do still have freedom of the press.
Right now, in many ways, we look like ordinary examples of the millions of professing "nominal Christians" who demand the right to an opinion. We simply disappear among the throngs. If the throngs melt away, then there's just us--the Remnant--left to take the brunt of all the God and Christ hating.
This is not the place to get into a debate of pretrib vs. posttrib or prewrath. But, let it be said that IF the Lord Jesus should tarry, even the pretense of godliness and religion will one day cease altogether, and the day WILL come when True Christians will no longer be able to speak out FREELY, but will be persecuted or even disappear altogether because they took a stand for Christ and the Truth.
If THAT day should come, may the Lord grant us courage, strength and wisdom to glorify Him with our lives, or if necessary, with our deaths.
With all of the uproar about the words "under God," it's a good time for each of us to ask ourselves if we personally are "under God," that is, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Let us follow the admonition of the Apostle Paul when writing to the church at Corinth, "Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (II Corinthians 13:5).
Let us examine ourselves to see if we are in "the faith." Is "Jesus Christ in me"? Am I under God? That is, Under the Lordship of Jesus Christ?
Jesus said, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing... Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples...If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love...These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:4-11).
Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!