I was reading about a new court case in the Boston area focusing on the phrase “under God” which is the words most children have to recite in the “Pledge of Allegiance” to our Flag here in America. I have a healthy international readership so I like to be clear that this is an American custom. Maybe other countries have their school traditions that are patriotic? Feel free to comment on your own international customs as I find it interesting. I personally remember getting up every morning in class and having to recite its memorized words. I tried doing it this morning and honestly I can’t remember the whole verse. I hope that does not make me a bad American.
If my memory serves me correct, most kids in class really didn’t care either – it’s more of a formality like errant zits and bad cafeteria food. It’s not that our youth is unpatriotic; it’s just that there are bigger things like self-esteem and that cute girl or boy sitting across the class room. Just like overzealous parents that can ruin our kids after school sports with their angry fits of rage, both sides of the religious equation seem to muddle the playground with their beliefs in God. You have the religious right trying to repackage creationism and return it to our text books and then you have the atheist folks who stamp out any imagination in our spirituality.
If you follow my blog our have read the Responsive Universe then you know I am not a huge proponent of organized religion. I just feel it creates more problems than it solves. I feel the atheist platform is a cop-out too. What is God but a boundless orb, a sphere whose presence is felt by the mind and the senses. God’s infinite sphere has a center that is everywhere and a circumference that is boundless. God is an indescribable celestial consciousness that guides and directs all life in form and non-form. With this in mind, we know logically that books and rules cannot truly govern our faith. The Dalai Lama summed it up elegantly, “There are billions of people on this Earth, each with their own individual, spiritual needs. It seems we need billions of religions too.” Try to put that in the pledge of Allegiance…
Even though I do not like Jesus in my children’s texts books, I do support teaching unbiased world religion. Still, I do not have a problem with a historical reference of God in a patriotic pledge as an obvious reference to a Christian deity. I said it as a kid, my mother and father said it as kids too. I think of it as more of a tradition than a bench mark – kind of like Easter and Christmas . It was written in 1892 but was not fully adopted by Congress until 1942. So it really is not that old. Further, its words have been amended 4 times. I am told the Pledge is an optional exercise but this recent court case is not about choice or freedom of religion, it is about discrimination. Maybe we should have a disclaimer in school at the beginning of the year that says anything that is referenced to God can be open to loose interpretation: Let God be a head of lettuce if you want? ….Yeah, that probably would not work either – you will always piss someone off…
Even still, don’t you think it is the parent’s job to define God for their child? I just had a chat with my son recently about lying. I told him that Hail Mary’s and penance will not admonish a lie. In a world of karma every lie will come back and haunt you – its basic physics… Cause and effect… Do good and you will live a more positive existence. I teach more Buddhist morals in my house… seems more grounded to reality. But that is my prerogative as a parent right? That will be the next blog….
We have God in our pledge to the flag and the word God is on our money. It defines our historical roots and it is up for interpretation. If you love Jesus then let God be Jesus. If you understand Buddhism as a more applicable philosophy then let God be your True Nature, sans of ego. And if you are an Atheist, let the word God be a trigger that you don’t believe in God… Come on, you can figure it out… There are bigger things to fight for like healthier food in our school cafeterias and how about better schools in general? Isn’t the United States ranked something like 14th in the world? So, ironically enough, I am actually okay with God in our pledge, but I am pretty sure it is not making our children any more enlightened or intelligent… It is certainly not saving any souls and for the record; running this whole controversy up the flag pole of the Mass. State Supreme Court is not saving any money either… God, my head hurts thinking about it all….
What do you think?
John C. Bader