Sunday, April 30, 2017

Making America Good Again: One Nation Under God

Happy Loyalty Day!

American history tells the story of a nation striving to be like the wise man who built his house on the rock.  Jesus, the master storyteller, told the tale of the wise and foolish builders at the end of the Sermon on the Mount:

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”  (Matthew 7:24-27)

America's Founders knew that relying on Divine Providence would provide America with a firm foundation and help this new nation weather any storm.  Over the course of America's history, there have been foolish people who have tried to sever America's reliance on the Almighty, but faithful and patriotic citizens have always stepped up to stop this from happening. 

Not so long ago, in the 1950s, when communism's threat to the United States and freedom around the world was increasing, American citizens requested that our political leaders publicly reinforce the deep and abiding patriotism and faith of the American people.  May 1st was to be called  Loyalty Day; "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance; and "In God We Trust" was made the official national motto.

While we now face different threats, a renewed public embrace of these American values is needed.  While the media foolishly mocks these things, President Donald Trump's Loyalty Day Proclamation and his continuing calls for a return to patriotism and faith are not new-fangled nationalistic rhetoric; they are deeply engrained in the mainstream of American thought and history.  He is calling us back to wisdom. 

While it had been observed since 1921, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially proclaimed May 1st as Loyalty Day in 1955, to be "a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom."  America is based on truth that our freedom comes from God, not the government.  Remembering this makes us wise;  denying this makes us foolish.  So foolish.  

Every president since 1955 has issued Loyalty Day proclamations, but often without the attention President Trump has brought to this day.  His proclamation specifically calls us to also remember that America is "One Nation, Under God."  

It was in 1954 that  "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance by a joint resolution of Congress.  The Pledge had been around since 1887 and was originally adopted by Congress in 1942. Upon signing it, President Eisenhower said:

"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. To anyone who truly loves America, nothing could be more inspiring than to contemplate this rededication of our youth, on each school morning, to our country's true meaning.
 "Especially is this meaningful as we regard today's world. Over the globe, mankind has been cruelly torn by violence and brutality and, by the millions, deadened in mind and soul by a materialistic philosophy of life. Man everywhere is appalled by the prospect of atomic war. In this somber setting, this law and its effects today have profound meaning. 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."
Isn't it eerie how Eisenhower's description of the world could be applied to today?  The sole exception is his image of school children across America reciting the Pledge.  In more recent decades court battles and a progressive educational system have fought against the inclusion of the Pledge, prayers and the Bible in public schools   As best I can tell, only half of the students in public schools say the pledge daily. Fewer pray or study God's Word.  Foolish.  So foolish.

"In God We Trust" has been included on U.S. currency since the time of the Civil War for much the same reason as "under God" was added to the pledge.  At the urging of citizens, Lincoln's Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, sent this request to the director of the Philadelphia Mint:

"No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition."

In 1864 the first coins were minted including "In God We Trust."  All coins and paper currency now include it,  and in 1956 "In God We Trust" became America's official motto.  There have been repeated - and foolish -  legal challenges to change this, but so far all have failed.  These judges have been wise. 

Throughout our nation's history, there have always been public affirmations of America's reliance on God despite attempts to purge faith from our life together.  Like in Jesus' story, will our generation be known for wisely building our nation on the firm foundation of God's Word or foolishly ignoring the teachings of our Creator?  

Let's Make America Good Again by being "One Nation Under God." 

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