A recent vote in the U.S. Congress reaffirmed our country’s motto, “In God We Trust.” Briefly, I will explain why I oppose the vote and the motto.
First of all, if you want to trust in God, that’s great. Although I have never understood the point of faith, per se, it is everyone’s right to believe what he wants to believe, provided that each person take responsibility for his actions.
Secondly, some hay is being made about Ron Paul’s abstention in the vote to uphold the motto, which passed with sailing colors. I am not a Paulite. I agree with almost all of his domestic stances, but I am not in complete agreement with him on foreign policy. That being said, this vote was unnecessary.
It should be noted that both parties wholeheartedly voted for this measure, even though the Democrat Party does nothing to promote religion, as it is understood by mainstream churches, and indeed, often attacks it surreptitiously and even overtly. The Republican Party generally gives lip service to Christianity in order to bolster its social conservative base, but does little in effect to advance what believers would consider a Christian agenda.
Not that I think they should. The Republican Party should promote freedom, including freedom of conscience, and individual rights. Christian culture should be relegated to an aspect of civil society. If we are to be a Christian nation, it should be de facto and not de jure. The American people should be the ones to decide if we are mostly Christians with their daily behavior, not with a token vote in the U.S. Congress taken for the purpose of pre-election optics.
I am not even saying that the “God” in the motto is necessarily a Christian one, and not, for example, the “Nature’s God” described by Spinoza. All Christians seem to assume that the God mentioned in the country’s seminal texts is a Christian one; and though it is true that many founders and framers were Christians, Christ or Yahweh were not mentioned by name for a reason. Freedom of conscience was to remain indisputable, and the government was not meant to pick sides. With religious wars still fresh in the minds of the founders, they did not want to take the federal government down that road. If the several states wanted to uphold God in their constitutions, that was the states’ and people’s right under the tenth amendment. (And every state did.)
Lastly, such mottos hurt our nation because they either undermine the notion of freedom or ostracize those who do not believe in them. “In God we Trust” is a legal affirmation of something that should be a private matter for citizens to decide themselves. E pluribus unum, or “out of many one,” undermines the concept of federalism.
We need to be careful how we choose our national mottos. If we had to have a motto, I would choose something along the lines of, “Liberty for all.” But that wouldn’t do much to edify the federal government’s authority, or hold the politicians accountable for their actions, would it?
Instead, we have mottos that either give us or the politicians a free pass in religious terms, or undermine federalism and individual rights. And faith, as we may have noticed, may be an effective guide for concerted action, but it is not a wise substitute for action.