On Saturday I attended the annual ‘Massing of the Colors’ at a high school downtown. I estimate as many as 150 military units and social organizations were represented; in most cases each had a U.S. Flag and a flag or banner identifying their group. The I Corps Army Band played a medley of patriotic-themed songs, and a Major General gave a short address about two military heroes.
We attended in support of the Refuge, the retreat center founded and operated by my parents – they were competing for a participation award (which they won). Each organization that could rally at least 50 supporters was eligible to win a prize of $500 – we apparently had enough supporters, and my folks received the check on behalf of The Refuge.
I must admit, I wasn’t very eager to go. The program was more than 2 hours in duration, and the school was a good half-hour from my home – surely I had better things to do on a Saturday afternoon? I was teaching Sunday School the next morning – this cut into my preparation time considerably.
But a friend of our family and a long-time Refuge supporter had asked my son David to carry a flag, and it was very possible that I would be needed to make up the required count of 50 supporters, so I decided there was no easy way to get out of it. It is hard to say ‘No’ to a retired Colonel who has invested so much of his own time into the Refuge, and has been so kind to our family over the years.
When we arrived, I was surprised and a little impressed at how many flags were there. It seems nearly every military unit in the 7th Division was represented, and there were dozens of community groups, including Boy Scout and Cub Scout groups, Chambers of Commerce, and Veterans organizations in attendance as well. So I took my seat behind my parents and settled in to endure the ceremony.
While I was sitting there, I began to reflect on patriotism, and my emotional and intellectual response to the flag and the songs being played by the band. Patriotism is a tricky subject is our post-modern society, and it is further complicated by the fact that, as a Christian, my true citizenship is not tied to a particular earthly nation. Is my allegiance to Christ compatible with being a Patriot? If I was a German or Brazilian or Syrian man, would it be appropriate for me to be a Patriot?
About halfway through the ceremony, a young soldier sang a rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance. Since we recite the Pledge as part of our weekly AWANA ceremony, it is something that rolls through my head more often than most adults. I’m not sure if public schools still recite the pledge – perhaps not in this left-leaning State where I live now, because of the ‘Under God’ component that seems so abhorrent to liberals.
One phrase that was particularly stressed in the song was the final refrain of the Pledge: “… with Liberty and Justice for All.” I found myself considering the uniqueness of my nation as originally founded. Say what you like about the Founding Fathers, the majority of them were Christians, and those that weren’t, were well-steeped in Biblical knowledge. Baked into our national DNA is a firm belief that the Government is subject to God and may not trespass within the borders of religious freedom.
Liberty is a strange word. It means release from jail for the prisoner, equality for a racial minority, and freedom of expression for others. It is a basic sense that, within reason, and with consideration of the rights of others, I ought to be left to pursue my own happiness without undue interference.
And yet of the two words, I think ‘Justice’ is the more critical of the two words. Without Justice, Liberty only exists for the powerful and influential — yet Justice limits individual Liberty by its very nature.
But what is Justice? Is there a universal standard that people can agree to? Without some transcendent standard (like the Word of God), Justice descends from its lofty place, to the sordid will of the majority at a given time. If the majority is in favor of slavery for people of a certain race, then that is Justice. If the majority votes to murder the unborn or the elderly or the sick, that becomes Justice.
In recent years, corruption and hypocrisy seem rampant in political and financial circles. As political correctness continues to push God out of the public sphere, is Justice just a matter of taking a vote and letting the majority enact whatever tyranny it desires? What happens to the ‘for all’ part of the Pledge?
As I drove home, I was sobered by the thought that the Liberty and Justice I often take for granted, is under assault from all sides. How long, I wondered, will we continue to enjoy Liberty, when the foundation of Justice is eroded and destroyed by those who say there is no God?