Sun 30 Jul 2006
One of the major casualties of war is the opportunistic rise of God-talk. Before the American Civil War preachers north and south saw their political differences along religious lines. Slaveholding advocates below the Mason-Dixon line viewed blacks as the cursed children of Ham, forever branded to be servants to the Japhethetic spiritual (and plantation-owning) heirs of Noah and Abraham. Liberal abolitionists up north proposed the novel idea that Uncle Tom was the kind of man Jesus died for and who a nation should go to war over. World War I America road the crest of a revivalist movement leading to the current evangelical wing of conservative Protestantism and “death to Darwinism” bannerism. After World War II the pulpit not only was bullied to save wayward sinners but warned of the immanent takeover of America by godless Commies. Now we have the debacle in Iraq in which President Bush entered the fray on the apparent advice from a heavenly father (certainly not the logical assessment of Pentagon planners). Look out God, here come the self-righteous mantra bearers once again.
Four little words have become the neo-coinage of a silly debate in our country. “In God We Trust” adorns our coinage mammon, at least since 1864, apparently to verbally assist the war effort at that time. But it took almost a century before God could be trusted enough to have his name on paper money in our country. Then in 1970 in Aronow v. the United States before the 9th Circuit Court, it was ruled by our appointed judicial sages that reference to “God” could be simply patriotic and ceremonial rather than religious. By the same logic it would seem only fair that churches and other religious organizations be taxed like other businesses. The patriotic version was added on to our national pledge in the 1950s as a verbal slap at the Communist Bloc. It’s okay for athiests or those who wonder which “God” is to be trusted to recite the pledge, because it’s just a bunch of ceremonial words.
Politicians are once again set on reminding taxpayers that we should all (atheists included) be trusting in God. In June the phrase “In God We Trust” became the state motto of Florida (perhaps a higher father spoke to Jeb Bush as well). Well the rest of the country gave up trusting Florida to count votes properly, so bringing in God is a smooth move there. The phrase has been approved for license plates in Indiana. This is an easy one, since a September 2003 Gallup Poll said that 90 percent of Americans approve of the phrase on our currency. Just think, this simple phrase will fit well with the Honkie “Honk if you love Jesus” stickers just below the gun racks.
I have to agree with the 9th Circuit Court ruling on this one. The phrase has been so deluded from any moral meaning that it really is just a ceremonial token. When Jesus was asked to pay the Roman tax, he did (in a fishy kind of way) and even said that good Christians should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. Now the Good Book (in a ceremonial rather than a religious sense) also says that you can’t worship god and mammon. Some purists might think that inscribing the name of God on modern-day mammon is a bit of an oxymoron, but only if you think of God in a religious sense. If you think like non-activist members of the court and most Americans who handle large sums of money in this country, it becomes clear that people serve mammon no matter whose name is on the coin. Here is a God the most greedy capitalist can trust in and not send the stock market plummeting.
If the politicians are really serious about the moral state of the nation at war, then having a reminder that God should be trusted is not a bad idea. Certainly none of us can trust them. The problem is that if you reshuffle in hard scrabble fashion the letters of “trust” you can just as easily come up with the word “strut.” Imagine if the phrase were modified to read “In God We Strut.” It does not have the ring of the gold standard (which was buried long ago), but I think such a rewording has considerable merit. At the very least it would make it easier for politicians to accept bribes from lobbyists in hard cash rather than gold outings and yachts. No need to worry that there might just be a lingering religious sense to “trusting” God while stealing money if the coin of the realm says to strut your stuff. Trust me, a constitutional amendment making “In God We Strut” the ceremonial motto of the United States is a winner for everyone. With that kind of lingo we can whip them Arabs for sure and get back to Amnerican values like we see on “American Idol.” It’s all a matter of trust.
Daniel Martin Varisco
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