Monday, October 6, 2014

"One nation under God": A plea for humility

On March 14, 2007, a headline in our local newspaper read, “Congressman is highest-ranking elected official to admit that he does not believe in God.”

Why, I wondered, after almost 35 years in public office, did Representative Pete Stark decide to disclose this? Was he trying to win the $1000 prize offered by the Secular Coalition for America, a group held together by the “far-ranging philosophies” appealing to him?

The article continued, “Stark gives confession,” aligning himself with 46 other prominent public leaders who considered themselves “nontheist—a group that includes atheists, agnostics and other types of secular humanists.” So, what we have here is a “Stark” contrast. For Christians, the verb “confess” connotes admitting one’s faults or repenting for having broken laws put in place by a Superior Being, even God. Christians are under further obligation to “confess God’s hand in all things.”


Make no mistake: America’s Founding Fathers held a profound respect for the freedom of religion. So, is it imperative we believe in God, and must our public servants also believe in God? With all due respect, Mr. Stark was neither my next-door-neighbor nor my local grocer; he was an elected official who allegedly represented me. So, given a choice, I prefer being represented by someone who does not have all the answers himself—someone who has the humility and the good sense to petition a Higher Source for wisdom, insight, direction, and truth. Evidently, I’m not alone. “Several of Stark’s constituents…were troubled by his lack of religious faith,” yet he went on to have an uninterrupted 40-year run as a congressman.

If we can’t see the irony in Mr. Stark’s “confession,” at least we can smell the hypocrisy. Even children can reason that government leaders agree to take oaths of office by swearing on the Bible; they pledge allegiance to the flag (the nation), affirming their loyalty to “one nation under God”; they use currency that reads, “In God We Trust.” By rejecting the idea of God, nontheists proclaim to lead “one nation without a god.” In essence, they say, “In ourselves—and other humans only—we trust.”

Much can be said about separation of church and state, but it still stands that our nation was born into the arms of a mother country whose heart beat for God above. So, have we somehow outgrown the wisdom of George Washington, the Father of Our Country, who stated, “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible”? (italics added)

During the last two weekends, in contrast to the approach of some government officials, my church leaders leaned heavily on teachings from the Bible and other scriptures as they addressed a worldwide congregation in the Semiannual General Conference. Gathered mostly via satellite with many nations "under God," members were instructed by men and women who openly and humbly acknowledged not having all the answers. Instead, they testified unequivocally that all truth and answers can and will come from God. Interestingly, this universal gap in certainty is somehow reassuring because, if God is in the mix, leaders and laymen alike can choose to be divinely directed. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this Janet! I thought of this exact concept during Elder Holland's talk this October when he said several times "I don't know. . . " It reminds me of a beloved scripture from Nephi, "I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." Thanks for sharing!

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