- Posted January 22, 2013 by
North Hills, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Obama's inauguration: In the crowd
One Nation under God
I recently had an interesting discussion regarding the fact that Obama's recent inaugural invocation was given by a non-clergy member and left out "Under God." The discussion brought up the valid point of the separation of church and state. Is having "Under God" in our pledge of allegiance a breach of that separation or simply a testament of our founding fathers belief in God? Here's my opinion:
I understand that our nation was based on religious freedom, and that most of our founding fathers were not Christian but Deists. And I definitely agree that religion has the potential to be twisted to repress a population. I’m also aware of the Jefferson Bible. Jefferson may not have explicitly declared himself a Christian, but he certainly was a Deist (as most people in 18th century America). I may not personally agree with cutting and pasting the Bible into one’s own interpretation, but I appreciate Jefferson’s motivation to do so. He stated that “To the corruption of Christianity I am indeed opposed, but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself.” It’s that corruption of Christianity that can be used to repress a population. He goes on to state, “Say nothing of my religion. It is known to myself and my God alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life; if that has been honest and dutiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one." I vehemently agree with that statement. Although, some may find it debatable to call him a Christian, I believe he was. The Bible states that the greatest commandments of all are to accept that there is One Lord, Love Him, then love your neighbor as yourself(Mark 12:29-34). Jefferson's acceptance of Jesus’ religious doctrines was consistent with his deistic views:
1.) That there is one God, and He is all-perfect
2.) That there is a future state of rewards and punishments
3.) That to love God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion.
When asked about his religious views, Benjamin Franklin stated “As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with the most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and I think it neeless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble…” – (Carl Van Doren. Benjamin Franklin. New York: The Viking Press, 1938, p. 777)
He acknowledged the life and teachings of Jesus, but he was skeptical of His status as the Divine. Yet, he was open to that possibility, he just never took the time to study it because he felt he had more pressing issues. “It is often noted that Franklin made a motion at the Constitutional convention that they should bring in a clergyman to pray for their deliberations:
“In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find the political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when present to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understandings?... I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men.” –(Catherine Drinker Bowen. Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to Sept. 1787. New York: Book of the month Club, 1966, pp.125-126).
Franklin made this motion after four or five weeks of deliberation without prayer. And his motion was voted down. But the author Bowen goes on to state, “Yet whether the Doctor had spoken from policy or from Faith, his suggestion had been salutary, calling an assembly of doubting minds to a realization that destiny herself sat as guest and witness in this room. Franklin had made a solemn reminder that a republic of thirteen united states could not be achieved without mutual sacrifice and a summoning up of men’s best, most difficult and most creative efforts.” (Bowen, p.127)
I do agree with separation of church and state, not only because I feel the church has the potential to corrupt the state, but vice versa. However, it’s my personal opinion that having “Under God” in our pledge of allegiance represents “the mutual sacrifice and summoning up of men’s best efforts” that God desires in us. Yet, I do appreciate that not everyone believes in my God and it is not the role of government to legislate that belief. In my opinion, keeping the phrase is simply a testament that our founders believed in God (granted it may not have been a Judeo-Christian God, depending on who you ask), not a way to push that belief.
Also, Obama has stated that he is a Christian. So I don’t see why he would have a problem with pledging “Under God.” When I first watched the video, I was disappointed because it was my interpretation that Obama was compromising his values in the guise of being flexible. But this discussion has brought me to the understanding that perhaps he shares the same viewpoints as Jefferson in that “It is known to myself and my God alone,” and the retraction of the phrase in his inauguration may have been to include non-believers with believers.