Ah, July 4th.
One of the times of the year where it seems most everyone, no matter their day-to-day politics, becomes a staunch right-wing Republican with cries of “It’s “One Nation Under God” or get the fuck out!” all over social media.
There’s only one problem.
It’s not. At least, it was never supposed to be.
The Founding Fathers NEVER intended to have our nation to be perceived as a Christian nation- a theocracy, and they surely never wanted to become so embattled with each other over spirituality.
“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
The First Amendment that the Right likes to construe to their agenda:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams in 1823:
The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. … But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding….
The Founding Fathers could not be more clear: God and/or Christianity has no role in government. They make this point explicitly, repeatedly, in multiple founding documents (Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, US Constitution, Federalist Papers). We are not a Christian nation.
So….why the revision?
“IN GOD WE TRUST” was added to money during the Civil War in 1816. Teddy Roosevelt tried to remove it in 1907 but was, unfortunately, shut down. It was adopted as the national motto in 1956. Likewise, “Under God” was added to the pledge in 1954. These two acts took place at the height of the McCarthyism Red witch hunt, because those godless Commie bastards would never be able to stand to say it and would stick out like a sore thumb.
The reasoning? Political pandering to the very far Right.
The National Reform Association in 1864 agreed on a re-write of the Preamble of the Constitution that would replace “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…” with “Recognizing Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, and acknowledging the Lord Jesus Christ as the governor among the nations, his revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government….”
They presented their suggestion to President Lincoln, who avoided it like a dirty diaper. The Congress also dodged the idea but threw the group a bone by agreeing to put “In God We Trust” on our currency, in an act of pure political pandering. So “In God We Trust” was first placed on United States coins in 1861 during the Civil War.
And the beast was fed. And the best has grown, and will continue to grow. Until the beast is cut off.
At this rate, we are two sides of the same coin.
We were born a secular nation and must remain one to sustain our future, unless we want to go the way of ISIS.
Our Founding Fathers understood the danger of mixing religion and politics; many of our leaders have forgotten/choose to ignore that lesson and it will be our demise. We need only to look to the Middle East: many of those countries were secular until the 1970’s and while their history includes tribal civil wars, the government did not openly oppress the citizens until they became a theology. (Seriously- everyone needs to read Persepolis to get at least a quick history). I fear for my country when the majority of conservatives believe we are a Christian nation: that frightening majority has forgotten/ignored our history, ignored our founding principles and abandoned the separation of church and state. In mixing religion and politics, the religious right subverts both. And the people suffer.
Happy Independence Day.