Patriotism is the last refuge of a soundrel.
— Samuel Johnson
By David Tulis
The substitute for the Boy Scouts has slogged with its packs away from the trailhead, and it is bellowing out a jolly song that says, “Follow me boys, follow me, when you think you’re really beat that’s the time to lift your feat.”
Trail Life USA is just started its journey after the Boy Scouts committed brand suicide in 2013 by engorging itself on sugary sucker that is the gay theory. The first troop in Chattanooga, sponsored by a homeschooling group, meets in Hixson and works under the motto of “walk worthy” and has what it calls an oath.
“On my honor,” the boys intone as dads stand quietly in the background, “I will do my best to serve God and my country; to respect authority; to be a good steward of creation; and to treat others as I want to be treated.”
I am glad this saying is not a real oath, for the scriptures suggest oaths should be rarely taken. The saying is a promise, and puts together duty to other, to God and to authority. But the question of our sons serving their country is a live one for me, though I suppose for the other men the tipping of the cap in that direction is done with no reservation, without any real qualm.
Hesitating before the pledge
Virtually unavoidable in doings of civic organizations such as Scouts, Trail Life or the city council is the pledge of allegiance that good men always bring forth and recite with their right palms over their hearts.
I am an awkward sort of person whose ideas sometimes jar fellow yeomen and commoners, at least initially. My awkwardness extends to the instance when this oath written by Francis Bellamy (as revised by the federal congress in 1954) is recited. To avoid standing there with my hands at my side, I usually find an excuse to duck out. This week at Trail Life I came into the classroom, put down my briefcase, and just as the ornate flag and pledge business came closer, I suddenly remembered: I need to wash my hands. Out I strode to the men’s room. Other times, I fiddle with my tape recorder, check a camera setting, or manipulate the tumblers of a briefcase — the journalist, you see, caught momentarily in the tools of his trade.
The Trail Life “oath” escapes the pledge of allegiance’s pretense. It not a doxology. For that’s what Mr. Bellamy, a defrocked minister, intended in his pledge. While Bellamy was a socialist whose theories were too much even for liberal Boston, his first cousin is the famous Edward Bellamy, a socialist whose novel Looking Backward riveted American discourse for years. In that story, a man falls asleep and wakes up in the year 200 to find a harmonized and socialized utopia. Francis Bellamy devised in 1892 elaborate ceremonies around the federal flag, including a salute by outstretched arm similar to one used by German national socialists in the 1930s (aka Krauts).
You see why I hesitate to make the commitment and pledge to the federal banner. In my wedding ceremony I pledged before God to love, behold and care for my wife in exchange for her pledge in return. A pledge to the war banner of the U.S. republic is open ended, and as someone who reads the newspaper, I hesitate to let emotion drive me to write a blank check to the state.
Samuel warned against unitary government
And allegiance is devotion and loyalty. I have allegiance to God through Jesus Christ the savior. I am subject to Him. I cannot possibly pledge fealty to the abstract state, though it is possible I could pledge allegiance to the person of a king. I am liberal in allegiance to God, conservative in allegiance toward the modern state.
And what about the indivisibility of the union of 50 nations, or American states? “One nation, [under God], indivisible *** .” The North invaded the South; a federal president made war on his own people to compel a union as the state emerged from atop of national governments around the world. The Bellamy idea of one nation is distinct from two nations. In the latter is implied social inequality, division. So in oneness and indivisibility is implied the egalitarian program that sanctifies the masses while the elites rule and prosper in the background.
Confederations like those of the 13 colonies and Switzerland are less warlike than nation states. The primary purpose of the latter is war against others of their own kind, says Martin van Creveld in The Rise and Decline of the State. The prophet Samuel warned against political centralization among the children of Israel. These demanded a king to be like their neighbors (1 Samuel, chapter 8). “[A king] will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants.” Tribal divisions brought the blessing of inefficiency, of marketplace, of decentralization. But the kingdom politicized earlier relations and elevated tensions. Not only were the Israelites divided by tribe from the sons of Isaac. Moses divided Israel into companies of 50s and 100s and certain great ones to carry out judicial functions. He did so after liberating God’s people from an overlong union with Egyptians.
As Southerners and lovers of local economy, we cannot accept as eternal the federal union. We cannot accept the indivisibility of the state of Tennessee, which contains three distinct parts (just as California contains at least six states). The experiment in the warfare- welfare state is fading in relevancy; the god of the state is exhausted, the people exhausted, the Internet increasingly understood as a force for decentralization and independency.
Source: Rev. David O. Jones, “Is the Pledge of Allegiance Patriotic?” freetennessee.org