Happy Birthday to Francis Bellamy (5/18/1855 to 8/28/1931), author of the Pledge of Allegiance. Both the Pledge and the author have a colorful history which opens the door for a discussion on the “Separation of Church and State”.
If you are a Bible Belt Republican, you may want to sit down for this.
The original pledge was as follows –
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Similar to the pledge we recite today except for the absence of the words “under God”. Over the years we have been quick to rehash whether the phrase “under God” should be in the pledge right along with prayer in public schools and the posting of the Ten Commandments in government buildings.
Being that I live smack dab in the middle of the Right-Wing Bible Belt and being a self-professed Right-Wing Bible Thumper, I often only hear the view of supporting prayer in school, the insistence of including “under God” in the Pledge, and the posting of the Ten Commandments on public buildings like a good mother slaps a monogram on everything a child might wear. Here is another warning - You really may want to sit down with a strong glass of sweet tea for this next part.
Let’s just get to the point, I don’t think “under God” has to be in the Pledge. I don’t think the Ten Commandments have to be hung in public buildings and I certainly don’t want organized, staff-led prayer in public schools! That’s right. I’ll give you a second to calm down before I go into why. While you’re calming down, let me tell you about Francis Bellamy.
Francis Bellamy was the son of a Baptist Preacher. Francis followed in his father’s footprints at least until he was dismissed for teaching that Jesus was a socialist. Francis was a self-professed socialist. He was very clear that Christians should be socialist and should support the federal government controlling every aspect of an individual’s life. Francis believed that was the only way to level the playing field and to keep those evil capitalists in check. He had contorted and mangled his theology and his political philosophy.
If Francis had his way, the entire country would have adopted his particular theology and political philosophy… no thank you. We fought wars to prevent that very thing.
The image to the left shows students reciting the pledge while doing the Bellamy Salute... Look familiar?
Here's where I am coming from. As far as the Pledge goes, which god are we saying that our nation is under? The notion of the separation of church and state was originally intended to keep the state out of the church, and now it is to keep the church out of the state. I am OK with that.
Same with posting the Ten Commandments. What happens when another citizen requests that their religious foundation be put up alongside the Ten Commandments? And yes, I know that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values. I am not arguing that point. There is an extraordinarily strong correlation between Judeo-Christians values and the foundations of our country.
Guess what? Francis Bellamy held to those Judeo-Christian values, but his theology was off. His teachings were not sound, and I would not want his theology served up to my children in their daily school prayers and I would not want his political philosophy to be the foundation for how our government interacts with the citizens.
That’s the primary point here. Very simply, I do not want a group of government officials or elected politicians deciding which god we should pray to or which set of religious laws should be displayed. Especially in this day in age. Our faith and religious beliefs are personal. Let me be clear here-I didn’t say private. I absolutely believe that we are called to live out our faith.
If displaying our faith is so important, we should focus more on teaching our children at home why we believe what we believe (and letting them see you live out what you say you believe).
What would the world look like if we were as passionate about loving and serving others as we are about seeing the Ten Commandments posted or having the phrase “under God” in our pledge? There’s my opinion for the day. Let the ex-communication begin…