By Louis Avallone
Wal-Mart says, “Save Money. Live Better.” Hallmark is “When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best.” Disneyworld is “the Happiest Place on Earth.” And of course, M & M’s “Melt in your Mouth, Not in Your Hands”. These are among the most memorable phrases, or mottos, used in advertising, and you would be hard pressed to find many Americans who wouldn’t readily recite these with great confidence. But, do you know our nation’s official motto, as well?
Many folks might respond these days with, “Live and Let Live.” Others might answer, “The Land of Opportunity,” or “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” If you asked the current President of the United States, he says it is “E Pluribus Unum” (which, translated loosely, means ‘one from many’).
Of course, none of these are correct, because the official motto of the United States is, “In God We Trust,” and since our nation is facing such formidable social, economic, and political challenges, isn’t it about time that we better understand why?
Although this motto has appeared on U.S. coins since 1864, and originated in the lyrics of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1814, it’s not hard to understand why “God” is central to our nation’s guiding principle.
After all, The Declaration of Independence secures our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by recognizing those rights are endowed to us by our Creator, not by men or government. Of course, Abraham Lincoln called for our nation to have a new birth of freedom “under God,” in his famous Gettysburg address in 1865 and Franklin Roosevelt led the nation in prayer, over the radio, calling on “Almighty God” for strength, and faith, on D-Day in 1944.
How different it was then – The New York Daily News even printed “The Lord’s Prayer” on its editorial page on D-Day, in lieu of its usual content.
So, it’s no surprise that a few years later, in 1956, Congress made it official – it passed a law declaring the official motto of the United States as, “In God We Trust.”
Since then, our nation has seemingly retreated from our trust in God, and it is reported that only 40% of Americans regularly attend church, although some studies indicate that number could be as low as 20%. In fact, it is estimated that by 2050, the percentage of the U.S. population attending church will be almost half of what it is today.
And with the current administration’s policies coming out of Washington these days, such as opposing the inclusion of President Roosevelt’s famous D-Day prayer in the newly built World War II Memorial, it should be no surprise that God is increasingly harder to find in our national conscience. Just this month, for example, it was announced that the military would make it a crime for anyone in uniform to share their faith – and it is reported that this would include chaplains (or military officers who are ordained clergymen of their faith) to minister to the spiritual needs of our soldiers – a practice which has been performed continuously since the founding of our military under George Washington.
And even though poll after poll reveals that almost 90% of Americans say that the motto, “In God We Trust” should not be removed from our currency, “God” is being challenged everywhere else, from praying in our legislative halls, to referencing God in courtroom oaths, to even reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in our schools.
You know, there was a time in America where an atheist did not want to stop prayer during a high school graduation, or protest a moment of silence to begin the school day. Instead, they just did not believe in prayer. Christians that were not for abortion did not bombs abortion clinics – they just did not support abortions. Times are different today, and I get it – and religion has always been personal. As a matter of tradition, though, we have always mixed church and state, but by respecting all religions, as well as of those who don’t practice any religion at all.
The largest challenges facing our nation today seemingly originate from a declining consensus about what we ought to do, and what we ought not to do, from abortion to marriage to our work ethic. And increasing the separation of church and state has not improved our nation’s quality of life, or its liberties. In fact, our national conscience has become so diluted, and so politically correct, that it is in danger of eroding altogether. It’s like a popular country music song explains, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”
The bottom is line is that if life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are based on unalienable rights, granted to us by God, then in our society’s seeming rush to pull God out completely from our daily lives, in the name of political correctness, what replaces God? Who grants us those rights, if not by our Creator? Or will our nation’s new motto simply be, “In We, We Trust”?