3/24/2009

Should the motto "In God We Trust" be removed from U.S. currency?

MSNBC is now conducting an on-line "Live Vote" on this question.

I don’t know. I have mixed feelings about this issue.

I certainly hope that Americans would embrace the idea of “In God We Trust.” In fact, this is my prayer – that each and every person would trust Jesus Christ as his or her savior. I also hope that society and government in the United States would be in line with the will of God. This is my prayer – that Christians would be so convincing in the public square that others would see the wisdom of our suggestions and decide to pass laws and structure society in such ways that are in accordance with the way God has created us to live.

But I also feel that the civil religion that we have had in America – the one that gives God a hat-tip here and there, that makes Christmas a civil holiday for the purpose of driving our economy and feeding our consumeristic greed, that makes Easter Bunnies more important than the empty tomb – does more harm than good to the cause of proclaiming Christ.

This latter concern of mine is confirmed, I think, by MSNBC’s way of wording the question:
Should the motto "In God We Trust" be removed from U.S. currency?
_Yes. It's a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.
_No. The motto has historical and patriotic significance and does nothing to establish a state religion.

If the motto “does nothing to establish a state religion,” then why are so many Christians so eager to vote “No” for this? It is because we know instinctively that the separation of church and state is an important foundation to the United States. We know that faith cannot be established by the state. We do not want the government to tell us what church we must attend, what religious beliefs we must affirm. In other words, we really like the First Amendment.

But why, then, would so many Christians not vote “Yes” for this? It is because they want some affirmation of Christianity in the government. They want this to be a Christian nation, honoring God with all we do, seeking his will in our government and our society.

But, this brings us to yet another question. Why do so many Christians want to thrust our personal religious belief onto the rest of the American public? Shouldn’t “In God We Trust” be more significant to us than just some nebulous “historical and patriotic significance?”

Don't get me wrong. I personally trust in God. I definitely want my nation to operate its government and its society in accordance to the will of the God I trust.

But this is certain: The Christian faith can never be a coercive religion. We must not ever think that we can force others to affirm a trust in God. This is a personal choice, one that a person should take seriously. It should not be relegated to a simple motto that anyone can shrug their shoulders at when they see it on the money with which they buy things they do not need as their debt continues to soar and as they continue to indulge in the American way of consumerism.

Christianity is bigger than America. And Faith is bigger than a motto.

4 comments:

The Metzes said...

This post gets at one of the most controversial and most difficult topics to preach about in American churches. It is perhaps our most unrecognized "cataract" affecting how we view everything. Questioning whether or not it is immoral to serve in the military prompts a much more robust emotion-filled discussion than questions regarding fundamental attacks on tradition orthodoxy. Gregory Boyd's rescources have been a great encouragement to me in this regard: www.gregoryboyd.com (see The Myth of a Christian Nation).
Well-stated comment!

Bob Robinson said...

The Metzes-

I'm very familiar with Greg Boyd's take on this. I did an in-depth review of The Myth of a Christian Nation here at Vanguard Church that was very widely read. In fact, if you Google Gregory Boyd The Myth of a Christian Nation, this blog is second on the list - ahead of the Amazon link for his book! That's exciting to me. It's fun to know that so many people linked to my blog and have read my review. I try not to let it go to my head. Well, maybe a little bit ;-) .

I applauded Boyd’s arguments that the rise of the Religious Right does not best represent the Christian vision of reconciliation and I also agree that the myth of America being a Christian nation does more harm than good. However, Boyd’s solution to the problem is to hand over the government to Satan by saying it is his for the having. According to Boyd, government is evil because it is ontologically evil; government itself is a fallen power. I disagree with this, finding that it is theologically questionable. Government is an institution that is under the influence of evil powers, not an ontological evil itself. Follow the link and enjoy the series! Let me know what you think!

Wickle said...

I'm with you on the mixed feelings.

The way I see it, we don't trust in God. The overwhelming majority of Americans simply don't, no matter what they say on surveys.

The motto is a bit of an exercise, therefore, in self-deception.

Bob Robinson said...

Good point, Wickle!