under god

Salon is consumed with discussions about the pledge of alliegance. I also saw a rumour that it’s dying. I hope it lasts at least until I get to SFO in July for a weekend. I like those people. There’s a characteristically trenchant and thoughtful piece by Scott Rosenberg about the flag up today.

He quotes George Dubya as saying that “The declaration of God in the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t violate rights. As a matter of fact, it’s a confirmation of the fact that we received our rights from God, as proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence”.

As Rosenberg says, this is historical nonsense. There’s no reason why Bush should have read or understood or thought about the Declaration of Independence since he escaped from school — he can hire intellectuals to do things like that — but it actually says that the rights proceed from the American people. It was King George III who might have thought his rights proceded from God.

In fact the whole Bush theory is precisely ass-backwards. God proceeds from the American people and their understanding of their rights. That is why the Pledge is, and is meant to be, divisive. It divides good Americans from the rest of the world, just as “God Save the Queen” divides the British from all you unfortunates. Division and distinction is one of the chief social funcitons of religion in general and theology in particular, and if I ever get through with what I am doing now, I must write that pamphlet on The Economic Benefits of Heresy.

Of course, American civic religion only works because the heartland is so very beautiful. Last year, more or less on a whim, I drove from St Louis to Madison, Wisconsin, up the Mississippi river as much as I could. A whole continent full of spacious delights. I saw then how God loves America: who wouldn’t, driving through the low Wisconsin hills at dawn?

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