God does not unite the United States of America. Otherwise our nation would exclude Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and those uncommitted to any theological viewpoint.
Rather, Enlightenment values, such as liberty, equality, and inherent human rights unite the U.S.A. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “all men are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries which inspired our founders emphasized reason, science, religious tolerance, and freedom from political tyranny. One could readily see how these values are rooted in both Judaism and Christianity, but to make of our founders evangelical Christians is historically untrue.
We eschew theocracies when Islamic in nature; why would we seek a theocracy that is Christian?
I am not one who believes those who hold religious values should not express them in the public square—after all, religion-based civil rights and antiwar movements have appropriately challenged our national conscience. So do the pro-choice, anti-abortion, and anti-capital punishment movements.
However, I for one would like to see a candidate for elected office conclude a speech not only with “God bless America!” but also “God bless the world!” Yes, I know, I’m a political Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone!” But it would demonstrate a kind of religious humility, as well as keep those who believe in God mindful that “the whole world,” in the words of the spiritual, “is in God’s hands.”
A January 18th op-ed essay in The New York Times (“For God So Loved the 1 Percent…” by Kevin M. Kruse, a Princeton professor of history) reminds us of the origin of “one nation under God” in Lincoln’s hope expressed in his Gettysburg address that “this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth.” Lincoln’s use of the phrase “under God” called for the kind of humility I describe above, especially of both sides of a divided nation. But, Kruse explains, a version of the phrase, “freedom under God,” surfaced in the 1930s and 1940s in an attempt by corporate leaders to use conservative clergy to derail Roosevelt’s New Deal and give God’s imprimatur to unregulated capitalism, despite the recent Depression. Eventually, in 1954, “under God” was added to the pledge of allegiance.
According to a recent survey, the #1 burning issue in voters’ hearts and minds this election is the increasing wealth gap between the 1 percent and the 99. Now there are those who are resurrecting the phrase “one nation under God” to declare how ostracized that 1 percent feels!
Jesus told a parable of a good shepherd leaving the 99 to seek one lost sheep. Let’s hope this doesn’t get reinterpreted to mean abandoning the 99 percent to appease and coddle the 1 percent.
This Sunday, Jan. 29, Dahlonega, GA: Chris will speak on “Death as Soul Friend: What Death Can Teach Us about Life” at the Georgia Mountains Unitarian Univeralist Church at 11 a.m. Following the service and a light lunch, he will lead an hour-long workshop at 12:30, “Our Lives as Sacred Texts.”