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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

God in America

Do you believe the fate of your country depends on whether the political leaders look to God for guidance? Why? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1076).
(This blog dedicated in memory of James Hood, an acquaintance of mine recently deceased. He understood it all

Today Barack Obama was inaugurated as president for the second time. During this ceremony as is often the case in heavily symbolic state functions, petitions were made to God Almighty. This is always done despite the clear distinction between church and state in American. Why is it then that this apparently inappropriate mention of God at a public event is so consistently done? 

To understand this it is essential to understand the sacred place that a sense of divine leadership has within the hearts and minds of Americans. Everyone that I know personally without exception (even when not “religious”) holds the tenet that individual conscience must be respected. During the existence of the military draft, even during times of crisis, the United States always provided for avenues of conscientious objection. It is simply impossible to understand the American character without understanding this provision for the individual conscience – for the belief that people are to be led by their "best lights". This is the key responsibility for every citizen even though doing so sometimes causes intense debate and conflict as the guidance of "best lights" can lead individuals to see differently. Thus, we can only conclude that it is God's will that the nation sometimes be divided. It is God's way perhaps of providing for balance and eventual clarity. This accounts for the amazing--even at times miraculous—picture of political enemies sitting down together in peace and mutual respect and even friendship at the same table. It is almost as if they are thinking "We do not understand this ourselves – our perceptions can be so different and strife so seemingly unavoidable, even necessary...but the last thing I would want you to do is betray your conscience. Somehow, despite how strongly I feel about this or that issue, it is much more important that you follow your conscience (and I follow mine) than anything else. In the end we'll just have to prayerfully affirm together—in God we trust." This accounts also, by the way, for the huge admiration of Americans for Martin Luther King, Jr. Even when faced with injustice, he always appealed foremost to the consciences of the American people. This is why the religion of Jesus will always lie at the core of America.

This allowance for the divine can be terribly confounding to American atheists who seem to be unable to make any headway in expunging God from the public square. This will only occur when conscience and “best lights” are expunged. If this were ever to occur, American would be a profoundly different place—it would have, indeed, lost its essential character, its very soul.

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