“One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All”
“I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
I am still young enough to remember when we were required to recite the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of each school day. I do not remember when that practice changed.
Originally penned in 1892 by a socialist Christian minister by the name of Francis Bellamy, the pledge has gone through five versions or more accurately, amendments: the final version being amended in 1954 to add the words “under God” just before the words “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” I find it extremely interesting to note that Bellamy had initially also considered using the words equality and fraternity but decided they were too controversial since many people opposed equal rights for women and blacks. Nevertheless, the adoption of the pledge played a crucial role in how our nation, still in its infancy, struggled to define itself for its citizens and to the world.
I submit to you today that our presence here is validation that God has been constantly present and influential in how we should declare our uniqueness in the world. His influence and message is imbedded within the pledge of allegiance. That message is God’s constant call for universal inclusivity.
How do I know that it is God calling us to universal inclusivity?
Because the call to universal inclusivity reveals the nature of God and that nature invites everyone to a place at the table.
Because the call reminds us that all are God’s children, created in his/her image.
Because the call celebrates that which makes us diverse without requiring that we change any aspect of ourselves before we can come to the table.
Every time I think of the last line of the pledge…”with liberty and justice for all” I can hear the spirit of God re-affirming what Dr. King tried to teach us when he said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. I can hear God amending that to say, “Inequality anywhere is a threat to equality everywhere”.
We, who are living in this land today. have the opportunity to respond to that call. Nothing happens by accident, everything is part of God’s divine plan.
The Good Minister Bellamy was responsive to that call and gave us the pledge of allegiance. Even though the version he published was not the version he would have desired because he was sensitive to societal prejudices.
It has been one hundred seventeen years since the minister sat down to write. The call to universal inclusivity has been constant and those ancestors, those patriarchs and matriarchs who have yielded to that call have done their part and have contributed to progressive theology and evolutionary change.
However, we have reached a period in human history where the individual must now be reflective of the collective. The time has come to prove to the world what one nation, under God, indivisible really looks like. The time has come for us to demonstrate what real inclusivity looks like. We have grown in our respective faiths so that there is no longer a fear of those who are different. We have grown to recognize that even in our diversity that we are all connected. God has been faithful to honor the promise that where there are two or three gathered, that He/She would be in their midst. It is time for us to affirm that God is present in the Moslem mosque just as God is present in the protestant sanctuary. It is time for us to affirm that God is present in the Pagan ritual just as God is present in the synagogue. It is time for us to affirm that God loves the lesbian, gay and transgender just as he loves those who are heterosexual. It is time for those of us who understand that the Law of God must be interpreted through the experience of God’s love, to unify our voices and declare that whatever your nationality might be, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Indian, whatever it may be, that we will eternally be “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
It is my lot to be submissive to the will and call of God. As long as God gives me breathe I am committed to not only universal inclusivity but to standing against those who seek who deny anyone access to God. Answering the call means not being afraid of being called liberal or progressive, because God is my strength.
Those who would miss-represent the Gospel, those who project a false Islam, those who disrespect Judaism, are fighting a losing battle. The eternal God is not a god of judgment and condemnation. He/she is not a respecter of persons. There are no big I’s and little u’s in God. He/she does not require that in order for me to be ushered into the presence, I must first tear down my brother or sister. We are one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Liberty and justice for all means there is no one denomination or faith that is superior or inferior to another. Liberty and justice for all means there is no race that is superior or inferior to another. Liberty and justice for all means there is no one sexual orientation preferable to another. I am who I am because God has created me in God's image; you are unique because God has created you in his/her image. Diversity is to be celebrated, because regardless of who or what you call God, we will always be one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Rev. Elder T. Gerard Williams
Unity Fellowship Church – Buffalo, NY