At the recent Dem meeting, I was asked to lead the meeting in the pledge of allegiance.
I told the group that I do not say “under God” when I make the pledge but that I would pause when leading the pledge for anyone to say those words.
When I finished the pledge, someone shouted out, “God bless you!”
I didn’t respond. But he was out of line. He was, in fact and truth, objecting, in his way, that I refused to say “under God,” and would foist his wrong-headed view, in this manner, insisting that I acknowledge that our nation was “under God.” Well, it’s not.
The Dominican Nuns in the South Bronx instructed us to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” and that “rendering” had nothing whatsoever to do with God or our Roman Catholic religion.
I have refused to say the words, “under God,” ever since Congress added those words in 1954 to fight communism, because congressional zeal violated what Jesus told me and what our constitution prohibited in the very First Amendment to the US Constitution; in other words, it was none of Caesar’s business what even a kid thought was the righteous relationship of god and country.
President Dwight Eisenhower copped a plea that he intended to establish religion, said it publicly, that these two words, he did expect, would prompt “the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty.” None of Caesar’s business I thought.
Years later, I read how a federal appellate court found that placing these words, “under God” in the pledge, was no less than our government “impermissibly tak[ing] a position with respect to the purely religious question of the existence and identity of God.”
As a Bronx Irish Catholic, I was quite sensitive to this issue when, only a few years later, in 1960, the nation took a different turn, and demanded that Senator John Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, assure all Protestant Christians that his service would have nothing to do with religion, and that he would not defer to the Pope in Rome.
My young mind’s synthesis of this lesson was that some religions were more equal – and being a Roman Catholic, though Christian, was not good enough for the dedication established in the pledge.
Our founding fathers understood that what happened to Kennedy would happen if our government got to choose the state’s religion, as religion prompted intolerance, and, from then to now, there is fighting and killing because of the mutually irreconcilable notions of who or what is divine.
With some pain, many of us put aside the comfortable beliefs of a child, first spoon fed, and later force fed, until we came of age and recoiled from myths we saw that engendered division, hate, exploitation, hypocrisy, war, pain and suffering, in blatant disregard, among the Christian faiths, of the prescriptions of the sermon on the mount and the mission to accomplish social justice.
The most superficial reflection by an ordinary man forces the inescapable if belated conclusion that man created god – as given what religion has done in god’s name could only be authored by man, not by any beneficent all-knowing merciful god.
Ask yourself, what God teaches children that they are sinful at birth and must spend their lives proving they are not?
So when someone says “god bless,” because you didn’t say our nation is “under god” in the pledge, he is demanding that you conform, that you agree this civil nation state is dedicated to some divinity – not clearly identified but, if Kennedy’s experience is any guide, it may still not be the Roman Catholic religion.
If this last election proved nothing else, it was that Christian Evangelicals care less or not at all about those who Jesus identified as “blessed” in his Sermon on the Mount. Not when 80% of the Evangelicals voted for the infidel, President-electTrump.
It proves to me that the tax exemption granted churches bear closer, even intense scrutiny, when the congregation in so many Christian churches, the Evangelicals at the top of the list, serve as a political action committee, with the pastors, priests and deacons, all political hands on deck, guiding their flock’s conduct, and rallying support from the pulpit for a political candidate and this during purported high holy church services.
JFK had it right, we should have respect for diverse beliefs, but religion is none of Caesar’s business, nor our Republic’s business.