A Socialist Wrote The Pledge of Allegiance

pledge_of_allegiance-350Here’s a history quiz to help ring in the New Year. (Okay, I’m celebrating my first full year of retirement as a history teacher.)

Question one: Francis Bellamy, the guy who penned the Pledge of Allegiance, was

  • A. a Baptist
  • B. a preacher
  • C. a socialist
  • D. All of the above.

Question two, true or false: “Under God” wasn’t in the original Pledge of Allegiance.

If you answered “D” for one and “true” for two, you made 100.

The Rev. John E. Roberts, a Kentucky native and a retired Alliance of Baptists pastor in Baltimore, got both questions right. “I love it that Republicans are so crazy about something that goes back to a socialist,” he said.

In all fairness, I doubt many Americans know a 19th century socialist – and a Christian one, to boot – authored the oath.

Sarah Palin didn’t. She once said the pledge was around in George Washington’s day.

“Are you offended by the phrase ‘Under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance? Why or why not?” asked a questionnaire sent to Palin and other candidates running for governor of Alaska in 2006, according to The Huffington Post.

Palin responded, “Not on your life. If it was good enough for the founding fathers, its good enough for me and I’ll fight in defense of our Pledge of Allegiance.”

Bellamy didn’t pen the pledge until 1892. “Under God” was added 62 years later.

“Republicans like the sometime governor of Alaska are not that strong on history,” Roberts suggested.

Anyway, Bellamy was a leader in the Christian Socialist movement. Christian Socialists said the Golden Rule laid down by Jesus Christ was the essence of socialism and that unfettered capitalism was based squarely on greed, a sin the Prince of Peace roundly denounced.

Jesus, too, the likes of Bellamy pointed out, ran the moneychangers out of the temple in Jerusalem and said the meek – not millionaires – would inherit the Kingdom of God.

Bellamy composed the pledge “as a critique of the rampant greed, misguided materialism, and hyper-individualism of the Gilded Age,” wrote Prof. Peter Dreier of Occidental College for HP.

Palin and the GOP would love to reprise the Gilded Age.

Dreier, a political science teacher and author whose musings HP posted on Christmas Eve, said “Bellamy wrote the Pledge…to express his outrage at the nation’s widening economic divide….He was ousted from his Boston church for his sermons depicting Jesus as a socialist and for his work among the poor in the Boston slums.”

At the same time, Bellamy, like almost all Baptists of his era (and Alliance Baptists like Roberts) firmly believed in church-state separation. Hence, his pledge didn’t have “under God” in it.

Roberts finds it interesting that a fellow Baptist of the cloth “apparently didn’t feel the need to invoke the Deity.”

According to the pledge, we were “one nation, indivisible” until 1954, when at, at the urging of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Congress officially sandwiched “under God” between “nation” and “indivisible.”

Berry Craig“Ike wanted to make sure we were not godless communists,” Roberts said. Indeed “under God” was, at least in part, meant as a rebuke from Uncle Sam, the godly free-enterpriser, to the collectivist, hell-bound atheists who ran Red Russia and Red China.

In any event, Dreier, who wrote The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, proposed that “when we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we should remind ourselves that it was written by a socialist who believed that ‘liberty and justice for all’ meant more equality and a stronger democracy.”

I’ll add a Presbyterian “amen” to that.

Berry Craig

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