The Pledge: God and the Devil are in the Details

And Connie Chung is dung

Our nation's founders were mainly religious men, but unlike the Times editorialists, they weren't comfortable with letting precedent serve as their measure of what is just and right. At our founders' point in history, nations "under God" had been opening men's hearts with their swords, waging holy crusades, bloody conquests, inquisitions, persecutions and such in the name of the Prince of Peace.

Much of the strife and carnage in the world today continues to play out along religious lines, which begs the question: Which God are we under? The One True God? The otherOne True God? The dozensof other One True Gods or sets of approved pantheons? The gods of the first Americans or the god invoked in seizing their land? The god who sanctioned slavery, or the one whose book Lincoln quoted from? The god of the [Protestants/Muslims/Hindus/Animists/Jews/Catholics] who murder [Catholics/Jews/Animists/Hindus/Muslims/Protestants] in God's name? The rip-off god of Benny Hinn? Ganesh, the elephant god? Haile Selassie? How about an Aztec god we can appease with human sacrifice at G.W.'s Texas barbecues? And where did Thor get off to? Shouldn't gods with their own comic books count, or, like the presidential debates, are we only allowed two corporate-approved gods to vie for our servitude?

There is clearly no one-size-fits-all Unigod, and it is pretty sure the congressional conservatives who in 1954 inserted the "under God" clause intended no such a thing. They meant their God.

And you tell me if this enforced fealty has panned out the way they intended. I'm sure most who disagree with me will agree that we were a more godly and more patriotic nation 100 or 200 years ago, and that it's in the past 50 years that our nation's morals have gone to hell. Well, we managed all that patriotism and godliness without any pledge at all until 1892, and without God in it until 1954, when the McCarthyites got in a righteous lather over "godless" communism. So, hmmm, it was precisely the same time that "under God" was forced on us that all this licentiousness and rock & roll and contempt for authority began. Is there a moral there?

This story is not without a local angle—and a potentially creepy one at that. Remember last year when Representative Chris Cox (R-Newport Beach) was nominated by President Bush for a seat on the Ninth Circuit? That court is a particular target of conservatives because it is one of very few willing to grapple seriously with controversial issues rather than just fall in step. For example, it is only due to the Ninth Circuit's intervention that the Bush DEA's move to criminalize harmless, healthful hemp foods is at least on temporary hold.

Cox would certainly have been a retrograde force on the court, and when it became clear that many of his fellow congresspersons had doubts about the bench-worthiness of his extreme-right, corporate-coddling views, he withdrew from nomination.

But the aftermath of the pledge ruling saw Congress falling into lockstep to let their constituents know they are right with God and decried the court's ruling. In the current atmosphere, Bush could probably exhume Joe McCarthy and nominate him with his appointment assured, so don't be too surprised if Cox gets a second chance.

After all, as our Dana Rohrabacher railed in Congress last week, we need to wake up to the threat of an "aggressive, atheistic agenda," you know, the one under which churches flourish on corners in every neighborhood, that put God on our money and in our oaths, that grants tax-exempt status to millionaire televangelist hucksters, that has government funding and promoting "faith-based" organizations, that funnels your tax money to religious schools, that allows ancient superstition to take precedence over millions of persons' pain and suffering in the stem cell research debate. Yes, God Almighty, is in dire need of our representatives' help today, God help us.

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