Exploring the Pledge of Allegiance as a Christian

Jun 12, 2024

Reading time: 4 Minutes

Most of us grew up reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school or at functions where our nation’s flag is displayed. But do we appreciate the origins of those words? On this Flag Day (June 14th), let’s pause to consider the history of the pledge, as well as the two little words that make all the difference.


A History of the Pledge

In 1887, U.S. Army Captain George Balch proposed the wording: “We give our heads and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag!” Balch nationally promoted teaching children loyalty to country by distributing flags to every school.


Rev. Francis Bellamy published a significant revision in the late 1800’s for the national public school celebration on the 400th anniversary of Columbus's arrival: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”


In 1906, the Daughters of the American Revolution blended the wording: “I pledge allegiance to my flag, and the republic for which it stands. I pledge my head and my heart to God and my country. One country, one language and one flag.”


In 1923 the National Flag Conference changed “my Flag" to "the Flag of the United States", then added the words "of America." In the thick of WWII, Congress affirmed: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”


The Two Most Important Words

The version of the pledge above sounds very familiar to the one we recite today, but what is missing? Two words: “under God.”


Louis Albert Bowman, Chaplain of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, recited the pledge with the words "under God", drawing inspiration from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "That the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom."

hand holding flag in field

During the Cold War, many Americans wanted to distinguish the U.S. from the state atheism of communist countries. Throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s, some influential religious and political leaders promoted the essentiality of Americans recognizing our God in our pledge. The message was eventually heard in Congress, and legislation was signed by President Eisenhower on Flag Day, 1954, with these words: “Millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty...In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource, in peace or in war.”


Under God we have freedom. Under God we have a future. Under God we have spiritual weapons of power. Only “under God.”


Allegiance Under God

The leaders before us got it right in the latest version of the Pledge of Allegiance. Those two words are the key to everything that’s good in our nation – just as God says. Take a look at what the Word says about a nation that puts itself “under God.”


2 Chronicles 7:14 - If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.


Proverbs 14:34 - Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.


Proverbs 29:2 - When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.


Psalm 33:12 - Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!


The words “under God” imply an attitude and posture of humility, acknowledging God’s rightful authority over all. As a nation, we should indeed position ourselves “under God”, complying with His standards of righteousness rather than sinfulness.


Under God we have forgiveness and healing. Under God we have exaltation and rejoicing. Under God we have a heritage and blessing. Only “under God.”


As believers, our true allegiance is to God and God alone. Some may recite the Pledge of Allegiance and not think twice about the words “under God.” But to us, those two words should be the most meaningful; they should be a reminder to position ourselves in prayer and humility for our country every time we recite the pledge.


We can clearly see our nation as a whole straying from godliness and righteousness. On this Flag Day, let’s take a moment to honor our country in the best way possible – by praying for a nation once again truly “under God.”

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