Isaiah 32:1-8; Matthew 5:1-18
Well, we celebrate Independence Day this week.
It is always a very patriotic time, at least for most of the nation. So, I have once again changed our readings around so that I might talk about the State of the Union. And I am going to start with the Pledge of Allegiance.
The first thing we should know about the pledge is that it was not composed by the Founding Fathers. It was written especially for children in the summer of 1892 to commemorate that year’s celebration of Columbus Day.
The pledge first appeared in print on September 8, in The Youth’s Companion, an educational publication. In its original form, it read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which is stands — one nation indivisible– with liberty and justice for all.”
Its author was Francis Bellamy, an assistant editor of The Youth’s Companion, who intended it for a one-time recitation by public school children across the country. But its immediate popularity transformed it first into an annual Columbus Day tradition – and then into a daily classroom ritual. It became one of the earliest verses memorized by students.
Since its debut, Bellamy’s pledge has undergone two major alterations. In 1923, the National Flag Conference of the American Legion replaced the somewhat ambiguously personal “my Flag” wording with the more explicitly patriotic “the Flag of the United States of America.” And in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill that added the words “Under God.”
The pledge of allegiance, then, comes to us in its present form after having been shaped and transformed over time. So too, ours is a nation which has had its character shaped by specific factors over time.