One nation … under God?

Published 8:22 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What were they thinking?

By now you have probably heard about NBC leaving out the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. The location? The U.S. Open golf tournament of all places, a venue seen around the world.

The reason? The network didn’t want to offend anyone.

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Too late! I am offended.

As you might imagine, it didn’t take long for the reactions to begin pouring in. In this world of instant news, social networks and Twitter it only takes an instant for the world to know your mistakes.

This argument about leaving the “under God” phrase out of the pledge is not new. In fact, it was not part of the pledge until 1954, the year I was born, when President Eisenhower signed a bill pushed by the Knights of Columbus.

In 2002, Michael A Newdow, an atheist from Sacramento, Calif., was successful in having the phrase “under God” removed by the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals. It was only a ruling by the Supreme Court that prevented the pledge from being permanently altered. Even then, the ruling was on a technicality stating that Newdow didn’t have standing to initiate the suit.

This wasn’t the first change in the Pledge of Allegiance. In the 1920s the pledge to “the flag” was amended to read “the flag of the United States of America.” This change was advocated by the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The pledge to the flag was not even in existence until 1892, when it was written as part of the observance of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. The primary force behind the writing of the pledge was Francis Bellamy, who was the chair of a committee of state school superintendents in the National Education Association.

One of the two NBC renditions of the pledge at the opening of their broadcasts also left out the word “indivisible.” Surely the thought of the Civil War and the horrendous loss of life and limb to so many only 27 years before the pledge was written was on the minds of those who penned the original words. To leave that word out, for whatever reason, seems to trivialize what this country has gone through over many conflicts to remain one nation.

Do we have division within the United States?

I couldn’t even begin to count the many ways that we believe differently. We have Red and Blue states populated by black, white, yellow and red people.

We are no longer a nation of one majority but rather a nation of many minorities. We differ on religion, politics, abortion and so much more. It seems to me that the pledge to the flag unites us despite our differences. I don’t find that offensive. I find that encouraging.

In another segment, NBC left out the words “one nation.” We are, in fact, one nation; warts and all. As a Southerner with many ties to the old Confederacy, I can still celebrate and give thanks that we are one nation. Can you really imagine it any differently?

Perhaps the most upsetting to me was that the deletions were replaced by pictures of America’s finest in an emotional appeal to patriotism. I wonder what the majority of our military would think about the deletion of any of those phrases. They fought to keep us one nation. They fought to keep us solid and indivisible. Any soldier crouched in a foxhole would tell you that they prayed that God would look over them.

Before the program was over NBC was publicly apologizing. Ironically, they didn’t mean to offend anyone, their statement says, even as their decision to delete the words was meant to keep from offending anyone.

Heads will probably roll at some level for this snafu. I am sure that NBC is truly remorseful at this point if for no other reason than they have irritated so many of their loyal viewers and advertisers.

The truth is that I myself believe in the separation of church and state. It’s just that I never thought about one nation under God being an infringement of that doctrine.

We have had many people of different religions and beliefs in our home. With the possible exception of some atheists, whom I am not aware of, I believe that all of them believe in God and take comfort that we are indeed a nation under his care. I make no distinction between those that worship differently. God’s grace is sufficient for us all.

There are a lot of laws I disagree with. I don’t like driving 55 on a lonely country road, but if I get caught by the State Patrol I can’t say I am innocent just because I don’t like the law.

NBC, I believe, made an error almost unforgivable for a company of their size and reputation. Their primary function is to report the news and perhaps advocate for change when they view society to be wrong. In this case, they ignored the law and made their own version for millions to see.

NBC should do what I have to do on any given day. If they don’t like the law, contact their congressmen and use their considerable resources to argue for changes in that law. Until then, it is “one nation under God, indivisible.” It isn’t just what I believe; it’s the law.