God, the flag and our money

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Michael Duncan

I confess to having some “bad” thoughts. Facebook is the cause. I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook. Mostly I scan through some time during the day to see if any of my friends have posted anything interesting.

There are some interesting things on Facebook, including some photos I had rather not seen.  But more often than not, it is the comments that friends post that bother me.

The bad thoughts I’ve been having stem from what I read on Facebook (and other places) and from my belief in and trust of God. There! I’ve said it. In God I trust! Dare I go further? Yes! I belong to a local church composed of folks who have made a commitment to be Jesus-followers. Collectively, we declare, In God we trust! And in varying degrees, we actually do.

Some may think that my admission that folks in our church trust in God to varying degrees is itself a “bad” thought and a sad commentary on my fellow Jesus-followers and me. It is not; it is an honest admission; and the last time I checked, God liked honesty. Most of us want to trust all the time, but there are times when our trust level is not as high as it is at other times. This is not my “bad” thought.

My “bad” thought comes when I read posts about keeping “under God” in the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States and about keeping “in God we trust” on our money. Don’t stop reading, I’m not finished.

The original pledge was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister. Bellamy’s version is as follows: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” In 1923, the National Flag Conference called for the words “my Flag” to be replaced with “the Flag of the United States of America.” On June 14, 1954, President Eisenhower signed into law a bill inserting “under God” into the pledge. On the occasion of the signing, Eisenhower stated, “From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty. . . . In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.”

I liked Ike! I even like his statement, but there is a problem. Saying “under God” doesn’t make it so, no matter how many school children and/or adults say it. Oh, in the sense that all of creation is under God the United States is also under God. But shouldn’t under God mean more than that? Shouldn’t it mean something about submitting to the way of God? For those of us who are Christian (and we are the ones usually making all the noise), shouldn’t it mean that we are seeking to live in community, loving each other and our enemies . . . shouldn’t it have something to do with how we deal with poverty, slavery, personal and corporate greed, and acts of discrimination against individuals and groups with whom we disagree?

“Under God” and “In God We Trust” are not magical phrases that grant us special protection and privilege. For Christians, “Under God” should remind us that we owe a higher allegiance to God than to country. As for “In God We Trust” printed on our currency, if we really believed that, we would use money for a good greater than buying the next bigger and better model of whatever we already have. If our trust were truly in God, would we sacrifice time needed for building marriages and raising children in order to make more money so that we can provide things for ourselves and our families without which we might actually be richer?

I’m glad to say: “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.” However if those words “under God” were not there, it would not change my allegiance to my country or to God. The United States existed 116 years without a pledge and 62 years with one that did not include those two words. It’s not the words that matter. It’s how we live under God.