tea tom

a simple life
NOVEMBER 3, 2011 9:44AM

Why "In God We Trust" Is a Lie

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Ashley F. Miller has written a great article detailing "Why 'In God We Trust' Is a Problem."  I couldn't have made a better argument than she already has even if I wanted to, so I encourage you to read her post if you haven't done so already.

The point I want to make, as a pastor in a mainline denomination and as a sometime follower of Jesus, is different.  I simply contend that the motto "In God We Trust" is a lie, and a hypocritical one at that (Are there non-hypocritical lies?).

In a nation that spent  $700 billion for defense in 2010, which is one-third of total milatary spending in the world, the idea that we trust in anything other than "might makes right" is ludicrous.  We outspend our nearest competitor (China) in this area by 100%.  Further, we spend more on defense than the next nine nations combined.  It is clear to me that we trust our military more than any divine being.

Further, the idea that we should put this "motto" on our currency is ironic at best.  Two passages of scripture come to mind.  The first is from Mark 12:14-17:

And they came and said to Jesus, "Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?" But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." And they brought one. And he said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said to him, "Caesar's." Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they marveled at him. 

The second is from Matthew 6:24:

 "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."

Putting God's name on our money does not make it holy, nor does it demonstrate our allegience to God.  It is, however, a pietistic exercise that only illustrates our hipocrisy. 

We, and I do include myself here, spend much of our energy and lives in the pursuit of money.  Yes, we need it to live, and yes, we can also use it help others.  But, if we are honest, the money we earn is overwhelmingly used to make our own lives more comfortable.   While the motto "In God We Trust" may give many a warm, fuzzy, and vaguely religious feeling, it is, in reality, mere window dressing to justify our own greed.

And so I say again,  the motto "In God We Trust" is a lie.  It does not reflect the reality of our national life.  It is also highly hypocritical for us to make this claim when our national priorities are so antithetical to the sentiment expressed by it.  Just saying something over and over again and printing it on billions of coins and bills, does not make it true.  It never has and never will.

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But watch and see what would happen if some group decided to challenge that phrase on the national currency in an effort to have it taken off - great post. Good to see you around.
Thanks, LammChops. It is good to be around. Of course, I am rounder than I want to be.
As are the coins you talk about.

I recently wrote a post about Progressive strategy (mainly about how inept it is) and I talked about a related topic - actually a couple of them. One was about how we pay more attention to Jesus' priorities (helping those at the bottom) but allow the opposition to claim they represent God, for the most part without an argument. The other, a bit more off topic, may be more parallel: We allow the other party to represent itself as the party of patriotism even though they wave flags and we try to improve the country; in fact, they often take offense when we point out that the country needs improvement.

The issue here isn't patting ourselves on the back as I am not looking to write a political comment; the issue is the difference between the symbolic and the real. "In God We Trust" is religious flag-waving but does nothing to further the actual Mission.

Oddly enough, that distinction may be easier for Jews than Christians, because our main imperatives have to do with conduct, not with belief or faith. Putting "In God We Trust" on money could be viewed as an expression of faith. This, I guess, leads to a theological issue or two:

In Catholicism, there are the twin requirements of Faith and Works. Because Catholicism went through a period where the Works portion was thoroughly corrupted (to quote Led Zeppelin: "And she's buy uy ing the stai air way to Hea ea ven"), Martin Luther opted to throw out the Works requirement altogether, which eventually led some in the Protestant community to conclude, erroneously I hope, that faith is enough. Personally, I think Luther needed a sign on his desk that said something like "Faith without compassion is heresy." Unfortunately, to my knowledge, no such sign existed.

Which leads me to a pair of questions. The first is:

Could the motto on the money be seen as some sort of statement of faith and, as such, be considered a good thing within some denominations, particularly whatever yours is?

The second is

How do you deal with the elimination of Works from a theological perspective or does your denomination differ sufficiently from Martin Luther to where that isn't an issue?

Oh well, Probably not the discussion you expected.
koshersalaami, you ask two questions, and I will answer each in turn.

Could the motto on the money be seen as some sort of statement of faith and, as such, be considered a good thing within some denominations, particularly whatever yours is?

I suppose that the motto could very well be seen as a statement of faith, but the juxtaposition of actually placing it on money seems a little much. Also, I am reminded of the words in the epistle of James which state: Faith (or Statements of Faith, for that matter) without works is dead.

How do you deal with the elimination of Works from a theological perspective or does your denomination differ sufficiently from Martin Luther to where that isn't an issue?

United Methodists believe that while we are saved by faith, we are also saved for good works. As John Wesley, our founder put it:

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

And when it comes to money, he also said:

“Earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can”

I hope this answers your questions, and thanks for reading. :^)
Actually, yes, it does answer my questions, thanks.

With OS being down most of the time for the past day or so, no one's been getting comments.