A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
ONE NATION UNDER GOD?
For more than 226 years now a lot of smart people have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what America's founders were thinking when they created a document called the Constitution of the United States of America.
It was designed to help them "form a more perfect union." And it has done that, for the most part – if you don't count a few decades in the 1800s when this "more perfect union" was torn in half because the Constitutional framers were unable to resolve the question of slavery 100 years earlier.
Which is exactly what I'm talking about here. What did Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and their colleagues think of slavery? Historians tell us some were for it while others opposed it. The issue became so divisive that they nearly experienced Constitutional meltdown. And so they decided not to decide – and left the matter for future generations to resolve.
And we did.
The same has been true of other issues through the years. Politicians and lawyers have tried to figure out what the Constitutional signers were thinking about with everything from income tax (somehow it was decided that the same guys who dumped English tea into Boston Harbor over a tea tax would embrace the idea of a personal income tax) to women's rights (turns out men aren't the only ones who are created equal). We even did an about-face on the issue of alcohol consumption, thinking at first that they'd be opposed to it, then deciding that they'd be in favor of your right to choose whether or not you're going to do it.
Lately we've been publicly ruminating about how the first Americans would have felt about the words "under God" being included in the Pledge of Allegiance. I'm sure they had this discussion back in 1954, when it was proposed that the words be added to the Pledge. Back then, Congress decided the Founding Fathers would have liked the words just fine. But now we're talking about them again, only this time a federal court has decided that they should be eliminated.
The words, not the Founding Fathers.
Now, I'm not smart enough to be able to guess how the Constitutional writers would have felt about such a thing. Heck, sometimes I can't figure out what I mean in the things I write – moments after I write them. But in the course of this discussion, I can't help but recall the words of Abraham Lincoln, who, while not exactly a Founding Father, was close enough to them to be able to bail them out of that painful slavery mess they left behind.
Said Lincoln: "We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to that God that made us."
Is it Constitutional to invoke God's name on our flag and our country? I'll leave it to the politicians and lawyers to wrestle with that. To me, the larger and more important question is this: is our country worthy to be called "one nation under God"? As I observe the ungodly elements of the society in which we live, I'm not so sure that He would want to take credit for it.
But then, I don't pretend to know what HE'S thinking, either.
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--- © Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.