Q. The NBC television network has come under fire for omitting the words “under God” from a broadcast of the Pledge of Allegiance shown before the U.S. Open golf championship. The video montage of patriotic images including the American flag was dubbed with children reciting the Pledge — without the phrases “under God” and “indivisible.” A second showing of the video also left out the phrase “one nation.”
NBC's omission has caused a storm of outrage, with demands for the people responsible for cutting the Pledge to be fired and calls for a campaign to boycott NBC shows and its advertisers springing up on social media and blogs. The channel's golf host, Dan Hicks, read a statement during coverage, which said in part, “It was our intent to begin our coverage of this U.S. Open championship with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship. Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance ... was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone and we'd like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.”
Does leaving out the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance concern you?
Based on the way this question unfolds, I think I can tell how I’m supposed to answer. But I’m not going to answer it that way. Instead, I have four questions:
1. Do you really believe that the mangling of our Pledge of Allegiance by NBC was purely accidental — like a typo, except on film? How many producers do you suppose wrote and re-wrote, watched and re-watched the clip which left out the phrases “one nation,” “under God” and “indivisible”? Be sure of this — NBC knew exactly what they were airing.
2. Are you really satisfied by the non-apology apology issued by NBC? Early lessons on apologies were a crucial part of the curriculum of growing up where I came from. Parents and teachers looked for telltale phrases of contrition: “I’m sorry.” “I was wrong.” “Please forgive me.” “It won’t happen again.” Phrases like these demonstrated “a good apology.” Here’s what patriotic Americans heard from NBC:
“It was not done to upset anyone and we'd like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.”
“It was not done to upset anyone”? That’s hardly the issue. NBC screwed up the Pledge of Allegiance. That’s the issue, not whether they set out to upset people.
And, “we'd like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it.” What is this supposed to mean? Mangling the Pledge offends some and not others? Is it only wrong for some and not all? Doesn’t this willful screw-up offend NBC too? Is NBC sorry? Will it happen again?
3. Why can’t NBC do what the White House did?
Twice last year, Mr. Obama botched a quotation from the Declaration of Independence. He left out the words “by their Creator.” This is a rather glaring omission if you’re the president of the United States. We expect our president to get our sacred words right. But unlike NBC, the White House spoke to the issue forthrightly, saying that the president made a mistake when he went off script and ad-libbed his remarks. It was unintentional — a mistake. NBC says no such thing.
4. Lastly, is it really so hard to believe that NBC producers might have a different vision for America than you do? Pledging with hand over heart that America is “under God” may suit you just fine, but do you really think that everybody (in this case, everybody at NBC) embraces the whole Pledge? Or that this nation is and ought to be “under God”? Our Founding Fathers did. But more elite voices rule the airwaves today. So we saw an insensitive and arrogant display of network zealots who know better.
Yes. Leaving the words “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance concerns me. Doesn’t it concern you?
The Rev. Jon T. Karn
Light on the Corner Church
In response to the In Theory question, I'll say yes, it concerns me whenever the words “one nation,” “under God,” or “indivisible” are omitted from our National Pledge of Allegiance.
If we say nothing and do not let our opinions about expressing our freedom of faith in God and love of our country [become known], we are giving our consent to errors of omission.
I just read a news report about 10,000 people being evacuated from their homes in Minot, North Dakota because of the flooding. It is a safe assumption that these folks who find temporary lodging through the Red Cross, or with family and friends, would be more than happy to join in saying the Pledge of Allegiance (without omitting any words).
President Obama, in his address to the nation on June 22, outlined a plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. I'm sure that mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives and children of these brave young women and men in the military would join in saying the Pledge of Allegiance, grateful for the return of their loved one.
Our nation will celebrate Independence Day very soon. On July 3, our church will honor our nation's flag and gratefully repeat the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Rev. Jeri Linn
Unity Church of the Valley
Schwfffft! “What was that?” you ask. That was the sound of God inventing a new word, for a division of time smaller than a yoctosecond (one quadrillionth of a second), to describe how long God spent caring about whether the words “under God” were included in NBC’s introduction to the U.S. Open.
A full yoctosecond is how long God spent caring about whether the words “under God” are included in the Pledge of Allegiance at all.
God has better things to think about — you know, forgiving sins, feeding the hungry, raising the dead, providing good weather for cookouts and ball games, and bringing about a just society one transformed conscience at a time, to name a few.
The “under God” clause has only been in the Pledge of Allegiance since 1954 (the Pledge itself hasn’t been around much longer than that) and many question whether those words constitutionally belong in a pledge required of citizens, many of whom either do not believe in God or do not use that name for the divinity they do believe in.
I called on the Special Clergy HotLine to God just now, and was told that God does not care to be exclusively identified with any one nation or people; and further, does not appreciate being spoken for and defended by the political commentators of Fox News.
When told of the NBC Pledge footage, God laughed. I believe “Get over yourselves,” were God’s last words before hanging up.
The Rev. Amy Pringle
St. George’s Episcopal Church
Of course I'm not offended! I do wonder why NBC would do such a thing, but I am certainly not offended.
What does bother me is all the complainers who shout that NBC is loony and left-leaning and somehow anti-religious. (So that's why I prefer NBC, CBS, and ABC over Fox — but I digress.) I would so much like to know what church, synagogue, or mosque those complainers attend.
I'd bet less than a majority attend religious services anywhere. And what does it mean to be religious, anyway? The Hebrew prophets had it right when they condemned the outward show of being pious while not lifting a finger to help the powerless. (Amos 5: 23-24: “Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”)
Aren't there bigger things to get upset with than what was said or not said in the Pledge in the first place? Talk about misplaced priorities. People are hungry, out of work, the country is fighting two wars (three if you count Libya), but what does the commentator from the unfair and unbalanced mouthpiece of the radical right find offensive? An altering of the closest thing we have to American Shinto. Let us all weep.
The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
I don’t believe it was right on the part of NBC to edit the Pledge of Allegiance. The words, “under God,” may have been written with the intent of referencing the Western interpretation of God, but within the context of the pledge, it can also be interpreted as any supreme being or power — the exact definition being determined by the individual reciting it.
For example, if I am saying the Pledge of Allegiance, I might interpret the words “under God” to mean a power which guides all mankind toward peace, abundance and love. In my mind, I would think of a God that casts judgment and segregates people based on race or sexual preference. So omitting that particular phrase denies each and every person the right to pledge loyalty to one’s nation using whatever belief system they choose in order to make their oath more sacred.
What really disturbs me are the comments made by Dan Gainor in his attack of NBC. As a journalist, I would wonder where he obtained his facts that allowed him to define NBC as a, “faith-hating cabal of liberal idiots” and “anti-religious lefty loons.” There is no indication or proof that a political agenda was involved and saying so suggests a lack of journalistic integrity on his part.
Though it doesn’t surprise me at all, it does concern me. NBC intentionally edited out a portion of our nation’s official Pledge of Allegiance, and that specific portion was a very generic and simple mention of “God.” The statement read by NBC’s Dan Hicks may very well be true that they didn’t intend to offend anyone by the omission. But it begs the question: Was it omitted because they were afraid of offending the minute percentage of Americans who are anti-religious? On the surface, that seems to be the case.
Our generation has unofficially added to the Bill of Rights. We have demanded the right not to be offended. And that’s particularly ironic, coming from a generation that has held up “tolerance” as an idol. But then that’s nothing new.
When Jesus’ words reflected the wisdom of God, and his miracles the power of God, even the people of his home town “took offense at him.” So what’s the consequence of taking offense even at the mention of God’s name, and censoring him out? God’s rebuke of an errant priest named Eli in 1 Samuel 2:30 tells us the answer. “Those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me will be lightly esteemed.” And that’s exactly what we see happening to NBC.
Pastor Jon Barta
Valley Baptist Church
Does leaving out the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance concern me? Obviously not. I never say that part, nor do I put my hand over my heart or thereabouts. I also believe that standing for the Pledge or even saying it at all, is a choice, and not an indicator of love of country.
I'm also not sure the reaction qualifies as a “storm,” either. Outrage is the sine qua non of Fox News (sic), part of their shtick whether an event merits real concern or not. Despite having missed this tempest in a tiny teapot, I will continue to recommend TV news via Jon Stewart only, as even the best of the rest isn't usually worth one's time.
I would direct NBC's critics to a dictionary to look up “montage,” and also remind them that the station's intro to the U.S. Open was part of their commercial presentation of a sporting event, not a patriotic ceremony.
My feeling about the Pledge and the flag it salutes is that allegiance to one's country is better expressed by our lives, not by a ritual recitation in front of a piece of cloth.
I do not advocate disrespect for our national symbols. But the U.S. flag becoming a sort of fetish object, a false idol, as a Christian friend of mine puts it, is not good either. It is the Constitution with its amendments, and the rule of law governing our Republic, that we should honor, which is best done by rigorously upholding them.
Voting, civic participation, political activism, supporting beliefs with facts, discussing issues reasonably, tolerance and concern for others — these support democracy. Let's focus on content, not window-dressing.
NBC promptly apologized for omitting part of the Pledge of Allegiance during its U.S. Open coverage and claimed that it was done in error, and we should therefore pursue this incident no further. However — in the immortal words of Ronald Regan — we would be wise to “trust but verify.”
Viewers should keep a close eye on NBC and other networks, and if this or something similar happens again, those responsible should be taken to task.
Intentionally leaving out the words “under God” from our Pledge of Allegiance definitely concerns me since I have noticed a recent trend to sterilize any and all religious reference from the public arena. I certainly understand the need for the separation of church and state, but I feel that the current trend has less to do with respecting the Constitution than with taking a misguided swipe at the religious sensitivities of our nation. Any deliberate effort to demean or insult people of faith contradicts the principle of tolerance that is so central to the American ideal.
It seems to me that many of those who call the shots in the glass towers of media (and the corridors of power in government) are seriously out of touch with the average American. The fact is that our society is by-and-large spiritually oriented, and an overwhelming majority of us are religious in nature. We may all enjoy watching our favorite sport — whether it's golf, baseball, football, or basketball — but equally important to us is the acknowledgement of God in our lives. Trying to avoid this reality is wrong, should not be tolerated, and is ultimately bound to fail.
NBC may have made an innocent mistake, but I hope that this episode serves as a lesson to encourage those in decision-making positions to be respectful toward the religious sensitivities of the American people.
Rabbi Simcha Backman
Chabad Jewish Center
Perhaps we could just change a few letters in the line from “one nation under God,” to “one nation un-good.” No? How about “one nation; bunch of pagans,” or “one nation under judgment?” Majority rules, right?
It seems like we’re heading down a path that gives God the ax wherever we find him. Lawsuits keep him out of classrooms and his monuments are removed from public display. His memory etched in our creeds is scratched out, and deliberate exclusion of God’s mention on TV is done with callous indifference.
What does it say when American patriotism is viewed as something irreligious? Oh well, it happened in the distant past when heathen citizens considered compatriot Christians as atheists since they wouldn't acknowledge the false pantheons of ecumenical deities in their home kingdoms and empires.
Today we live in a country that likes to think itself patriotic, moral and godly, yet it blindly misses the point that treason against the one and only God of the universe is both ultimately immoral and ultimately ungodly. Not only do we like to throw the true God under the bus with every other pretend god, we relegate church attendance to some kind of optional, and probably unnecessary, waste of time. After all, the games are on, the farmer’s market is up, and we don’t really care anyway, do we? God who?
But don’t touch our Pledge. Hey, that’s American! You don’t burn the flag, dis Nascar, nor remove the God we don’t know from our heart-covered lip service. Did you know that our National Anthem’s last stanza exalts God, but we never sing that one? Why? My druthers would make it primary. You?
It is good to see some public outcry, but methinks this will all go away shortly without too much of a black eye for NBC, and I think they’re counting on it. My feelings about NBC chopping God are the same as chopping God everywhere else. “Here we go again,” I lament. What should I expect? My church is not full, yet Montrose is full of citizens. Where are my fellow Americans when we worship the God of the Pledge Sunday morning? C'est la vie?
The Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church
When I first read of this controversy in the newspaper, my reaction was one of, “don’t we have more important issues to be concerned about?” To name a few, there is high unemployment, a struggling economy, too much debt and two wars. Besides, this “controversy” occurred during a short introductory segment to a golf tournament telecast.
Until this week’s In Theory question, I didn’t give this “controversy” another thought. So, what should I make of it?
Until 1954, the Pledge of Alliance did not have the words “under God” in it. Now, a small group of individuals at NBC decided to edit/portray the pledge without a reference to “under God.” So what is the big deal?
As an initial reaction, I think that our society, or at least portions of it, has a tendency to overact, with small issues getting blown out of proportion, resulting in feigned outrage and discussion fodder for radio and television.
As I thought more about this controversy, I came to a different view. That is, this event is an example of a subtle and disturbing trend in our society about the role, or, for that matter, non-role, of God in it. A small group of individuals, who have tremendous power over what is broadcast, made a calculated decision to eliminate a reference to God in a familiar pledge to make a subtle statement.
In isolation, this one event is not of major consequence, but if a stance on it is not taken now, then when? And what happens next? Is the next step something more overt?
I have been, and am, concerned that the tide of public opinion in favor of religion is slowly but surely receding, and this probably portends public pressure for a diminished role for religion in the public square. This, in turn, may lead to impingements on religious freedoms, directly or indirectly. Some may conclude that such a view is that of a right-wing, paranoid, religious fanatic. I hope not. Rather, I hope it is considered the view of a person who views that God’s role in society is important, not irrelevant.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
I was prepared to dismiss this as a mistake, but you know, it does seem like they left “under God” out on purpose. This makes me wonder why, but it does not make me scream about faith-hating liberal idiots. My heavens — Mr. Gainor needs to take a breath and watch his blood pressure — and his mouth.
When we speak of God and the things of God, when we offer to stand up for God, we should do so in such a way as to glorify God. As Jesus said, “the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man” (Matthew 15:18).
Maybe the patriotism feature editor at NBC just didn’t think that the God part was important enough to add length to the montage. If that’s the case, then the public conversation could be about the positive influence of God-infused values in the life of a nation, thereby giving the editor a chance to learn and perhaps even apologize. Maybe the patriotism feature editor at NBC is someone who has been wounded by a religious institution or person and enjoyed taking what s/he considered to be a little dig at pretenders to God. If that’s the case, then the public conversation could be an honest one about the religious wounding that many carry around.
Am I bugged by the omission? Sure, a little. I am convinced that if we consider ourselves to be citizens of the Kingdom of God first, and citizens of the U.S. second, then we will become more compassionate, community-oriented, patient, inclusive, peace-loving, resource-sharing citizens of the world. I’m not going to try to make anyone believe that by screaming at them and calling them names. But I will try to live a life worthy of my triple citizenship.
The Rev. Paige Eaves
Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church