Of Pledges and Idols
September 28, 2017
The current brouhaha involving professional athletes and the pledge of allegiance to the American flag has raised awareness about the generally accepted role of the pledge in our national life and the implications of performing or abstaining from the pledge.
To set the focus of this discussion, let’s begin by noting that the actions of the athletes and the responses to their actions are, in the main, a political issue. The athletes, or anyone else, who act in this manner are choosing to state a grievance in a most public forum. The nature of grievance is, in this case is not directly related to the pledge, but the pledge provides the visibility the protesters seek. This sort of protestation is not new in American life, nor are the reactions.
The above aside, there are more than a few Americans who do not recite the pledge or even stand while the pledge is being recited. For most the reason is deeply held religious beliefs. The focus of these beliefs is that a pledge made to a physical object is a form of idolatry.
Most religious Americans do not have this reservation. They view the pledge of allegiance being given to the “nation for which stands” and what that nation means to them, “one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” That ‘nation’ is not so much the physical America, instead it is the idea of self-worth and individual liberty that is tied to the American identity. That ‘nation’ is also a deep appreciation for the sacrifices made by those who gave their youth and their lives so that we, the living, can the nation we have today. The pledge and the Star Spangled Banner evoke considerable emotion in most Americans, even today.
For the children of those who adhere to this religious conviction, the legal requirements are very clear. No student may be ordered to recite the pledge of allegiance. They may be asked to stand. This was settled by the Supreme Court decision in West Virginia Board of Education v. Bartlett in 1943, at the height of World War II.
Our role, as a nondenominational Classical Christian school, requires us to respect the range of beliefs based on the Holy Bible while recognizing denominational differences. Should a parent make this belief known to you, your responsibility is to carry out that request graciously while attracting a minimum amount of notice.