Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of one of the most famous presidential addresses in our country’s history, given by one of the greatest presidents we’ve ever had. Meanwhile, the Internet has exploded over President Obama’s own recitation of the address in which the words “under God” were not included.
There’s been outrage (and outrage over the outrage) on the topic, but whether or not it was Obama’s personal decision to take it out isn’t what I’m concerned about. I’m more concerned about the fact that, one way or the other, the seemingly now taboo pair of words were excluded from an address by No. 44 yet again.
Sure, those words, standing alone in this instance, don’t mean a whole lot. But the fact that this issue is even being raised, especially in light of the happenings of the last Democratic National Convention or at Obama’s second Inauguration, is cause for concern in my book.
Seems like America needs something settled so we can move on accordingly. Were we a nation formed under God? Or were we not? It can’t be both.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll trust the words of the guys who actually founded the country before I trust anyone else.
In George Washington’s Farewell Address in 1796, he said this:
“Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
The men who signed the Declaration of Independence, the ones who actually agreed with the word “Creator” staying in the document instead of it being omitted, also seemed to share the same sentiment about governing.
John Adams wrote, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
“Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure (and) which insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments,” said Charles Carroll.
And, perhaps the most famous of all, Benjamin Franklin said shortly that “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.”
The list goes on:
“The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Where, some say, is the king of America? I’ll tell you, friend, He reigns above.” – Thomas Paine
“If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instruction and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.” – Daniel Webster
I’m not saying these guys were perfect by any means (slavery, anyone?), but their sins don’t make their statements invalid. If that were true, then no words in the history of humanity could be trusted. Heck, even Pope Francis goes to confession every other week.
The next question, then, is WHY were we formed as a nation under God, and on whose authority?
My guess is that our founders saw how imperfect the rule of humans are without a standard of morals by which to live, so they turned to an Authority that literally existed outside of humanity and outside of the world we call home for a few decades.
The funny thing about authority, besides the fact that “modern” people don’t “need” it anymore, let alone adhere to it, is that it either has to all ultimately come from one place or not exist at all. For authority to actually BE authority, it has to be undisputed, and it has to come from a central source, or no authority can exist.
My belief is that authority in question is God, and, faith aside, I think that’s a pretty reasonable belief.
It’s reasonable to believe in God, because it’s reasonable to see that our world is governed by principles that exist outside of our human lives. Like a game of Telephone, if authority were something man-made, it may be passed along through generations, but put 200-some years between the origin and the present standard-bearer and things will look more than a little different. Our government is a good example of that.
Authority that was divinely inspired and thus created to be unchangeable means that there’s something carrying the torch through the centuries that doesn’t depend on humanity. Sure, things can and often do get misrepresented regarding that authority, but that’s not the point.
The point is that a divine Authority exists in order to give direction to humanity. Whether we listen to it could be considered another proof of God’s existence: the fact that we have the free will to decide.
I’m not naive enough to believe that all the Founding Fathers and every president throughout our history adhered to, or even truly believed in, the same set of religious beliefs. I know full well that they didn’t. But it’s easy to see that a true belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a belief that causes right action, has helped rulers, and even more so the people they are entrusted to govern, fare far better throughout history than a belief in nothing.
Check out Facebook, too…