Jim Spence: One nation, divisible by God
By Jim Spence
Of all the things dividing our nation, rending the very cloth of our society from its bones, nothing is more polarizing than religion. Name any action by any group in the history of this country, whether it be a minority, or (as is most often the case) the majority, and you’ll be able to traces its roots back to a god.
Prove me wrong; prove to me slavery wasn’t a direct result of Puritanical beliefs by whites that blacks were inferior, as their god had set examples of slavery in the Bible (read Exodus, if you dare). Convince me the civil rights battles fought in this country weren’t a result of religious persecution by white Evangelical Christians over people of a different color. Gay marriage, abortion, prohibition, stem cell research, wars on foreign soil and domestic terrorism, all because someone’s god said, “No!”
God and religion (actually, the removal of both) formed this nation in the late 1700s, and have been a constant thorn in its backside ever since.
In 1954, our federal government inserted the words “Under God” into our Pledge of Allegiance. By this time, “In God We Trust” had been inscribed on coins for a century, with paper money soon to follow. As a “Christian Nation,” we allowed a vocal minority to imprint these words onto our currency, and then insert the same praise into the pledge we offer our nation:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Is it any wonder this praise lifts the spirits of every man, woman and child who recites it? “With liberty and justice for all.” This is who we are. We are Americans, and we believe in the rights of every individual to live as they see fit.
As long as they believe in the Christian god.
And even though our country was founded on the principle of separation of church and state, of the idea that no entity can force its religious beliefs upon another, our money, and our pledge carry the name of this same Christian god.
The irony of the inclusion of this phrase into our national fabric is thick, indeed.
But most ironic of all, the most incredibly astounding fact about this inclusion, is not the words themselves; it is the location of that inclusion.
Of all the places our government could have put these divisive words into our Pledge, they chose to place them between “One Nation” and “Indivisible.”
In the history of the written word, nothing is more inaccurate than this placement; because nothing has divided this great country more than this god.
The god we’re told to praise with every utterance of our pledge, whose name we see every time we open our wallets and our purses, is the single biggest dividing force in the history of America.
The moment “god” was imprinted into public imagery, we lost our cohesiveness. We gave up our brotherhood, we forgot about our fight from tyranny, we no longer believed in the “One.” Instead, it’s “us” and “them.”
We banded together and fought a superior force, winning our independence. We became America. No country, no force, could divide us. We were too mighty to be split apart by other people. But one mention of a deity and our country was torn apart.
One nation, under God, indivisible.
The irony is so thick it’s suffocating.
Jim Spence lives in South Charleston.
This piece first appeared in the Charleston Gazette.