The Pledge of Allegiance: Is it Idolatry?
The Western Confucian has lately linked to arguments ( here and here ) for abolishing the Pledge of Allegiance on the grounds that it is idolatrous. Considering the contribution of the Knights of Columbus to the Pledge, I have a hard time believing that it is idolatrous by Catholic standards. The Catholic Philippines, for example, has a similar Pledge:
I am a Filipino
I pledge my allegiance
To the flag of the Philippines
And to the country it represents
With honor, justice and freedom
Put in motion by one nation
For God, Nature,
I don’t see any idolatry there.
I do have reservations about oaths in general, and the U.S. Pledge in particular. For the Catholic, an oath of allegiance is always contingent. A good Catholic will “rebel” against the directives of any government insofar as it persecutes the Faith, requires its citizens to do something immoral, or otherwise denies or perverts the truth. We have only one absolute loyalty, and that is to God. Therefore we should be up front about this: our allegiance to the Pope and the Church precedes our loyalty to our flag and country. That’s always made some of our fellow Americans nervous. There is no reason why these loyalties should be in conflict, but it is possible that they might.
Let’s examine the American Pledge of Allegiance:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,“
Nothing wrong with that, so long as “allegiance” is rightly understood.
“and to the Republic for which it stands,
one Nation under God,”
So far as I can tell there is nothing wrong with this either. We do live in a Republic, which is indeed “one Nation under God”, and we ought to be loyal to our Republic.
This is my one criticism of the Pledge. Our nation is not “indivisible”, in point of fact. Neither do I believe it was intended to be. Neither do I want it to be. Our nation will not last forever, undivided. If there is idolatry in the Pledge, it is contained in this one little word, which seems to almost – almost – ascribe to the nation an eternal, immutable, god-like character. So when I put my hand on my heart and recite the Pledge, I chalk the word “indivisible” up to rhetorical excess and practice the art of mental reservation.
“with liberty and justice for all.”
A noble ideal to which I gladly give my allegiance.