I recently received an e mail pass-along-message from old friends who are not right wingers nor fundamentalists, but nonetheless thought it worthwhile to pass on to their friends a circular about how we should all refuse the new dollar coins because they don’t have the words “In God We Trust” on them.
The message implies, or actually outright says, that this is part of the whole ongoing attempt to remove God from public life in “America” and concluded that if America turns its back on God, then God will turn His back on America. It totally bugged me.
I love my friends and know they only mean well. But I felt compelled to respond anyway.
This is an edited version of what I wrote back to them:
If God turns God’s back on a people for not putting God’s name on their coins, than that isn't the God I learned about in school and the Gospels.
Jesus made his famous statement about rendering onto Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's, using a Roman coin as an example. He didn’t say Caesar should put my father’s name on his coins.
My God is interested in me helping people who need help, in loving others as myself, and in fact the Jesus I dig says in the Gospels he came to replace the old laws with one new one: love your neighbor as yourself.
This campaign to refuse to accept or use the dollar coin is one of those divisive issues that distract people from the real political issues that truly affect their lives, and to distract them from the true message of the Gospels.
It also helps the fundamentalist preachers earn millions by stoking people's fears that this country—which has a higher percentage of citizens who believe in God than anywhere outside of some Arab nations—is somehow forgetting about God.
I always wonder why these same fundamentalist preachers, whose version of Christianity has only been around for little more than a century, always insist on following the ten commandments and having them inscribed on walls in government buildings, but never ask to have the beatitudes put up in public, which are their spiritual leader’s own words, who they profess to follow.
They sure do love that Old Testament religion. I think it's called Judaism. Except in the Jewish religion there is no set-in-stone text, or interpretation of the text, unless you're one of their fundamentalists, which have also only been around for little more than a century, though there have been different versions of that kind of thing in the past in all religions.
Jesus confronted that literal, fundamentalist, follow-the-rules-and-add-more mentality that has been the cause of so much death and destruction in the world and continues to be.
That’s about all I said in my email response. But I’d like to add that this idea many Christians have that they are a victimized minority in this country, and that the government and other public entities are out to destroy them, or at least suppress and marginalize them, is mind bogglingly absurd.
I understand that the culture at large is full of elements that either seem willfully sinful or at least contrary to the Old Testament rules. Like rap videos that are all about bling and objectifying women and their body parts to the point of being more sexist than the good old days many fundamentalists often seem to be nostalgic for (even if those days included racism and sexism and poverty etc. on a scale young people wouldn’t even recognize if they encountered any of it).
But the elements in popular culture that really go against the spiritual leader they profess to follow are the wanton violence and the violation of people’s basic humanity, and the exploitation of children and the poor and bewildered and uneducated and fearful and stressed out, and so much more.
And to think that the government deliberately removed “in God we trust” from the coins because there’s some kind of governmental conspiracy to remove God from public life, when this administration is headed by an avowed born again Christian who has filled the government with fellow born agains, including all those graduates of evangelical colleges like the ones in the Justice department who graduated from that new fundamentalist evangelical college and had no experience in the law or in government nor even a very good education. Or the armed services where Christian fundamentalism has become part and parcel of military life, and where troops who don’t join in prayer circles and prayer meetings are ostracized and held back from advancing in rank and even discharged!
There’s certainly more Christianity in public life at anytime in my lifetime. When I was in the service it was still like the old Hollywood movies where the guys represented every faith and ethnicity that makes up what they used to wishfully call our “melting-pot” of a nation, but now, we have commanders in all the services professing that ours is a Christian nation and that this war is a crusade and that anyone who doesn’t believe in their God the way they do is not saved and is not to be respected and worse.
The Supreme Court justices who dominate with their conservative opinions and handed Junior an election he lost and continue to be “activists” for conservative causes and issues are all Chirstians, the cabinet is mostly Christians, and the few exceptions still believe in a God.
Can these frightened people who think their religion is being somehow suppressed in this country name one atheist in government in any prominent or important or authoritative or decision making position?
Give me a break. Atheists are the ones whose perspective is suppressed in the public life of this country. And if the culture is polluted with values that Christians see as against their religion, blame that on corporate greed, not some government conspiracy.
But I suspect this email some folks are passing around the internet is one of many indirect ways of making this election about “values” again instead of issues, and creating an “us and them” mentality with I’m sure the avowed Christian Obama being cast as the anti-Christian, if not the anti-Christ (have you noticed that Hagee, the fundamentalist preacher who endorsed McCain, has not had the youtube loops repeatedly shown on TV of him professing far worse beliefs than Rev. Wright including his onw version of "the chickens coming home to roost" when he claimed Katrina was God damning New Orelans for its sins, or that journalists have let McCain get away with accepting his endorsement and appearing in public with him, even though this same preacher has called the Catholic church “the whore of Babylon” and the popes, not just this one, the anti-Christ and has already implied that Obama may be the new anti-Crhist).
Thank God there are Christian preachers in the USA today who are beginning to preach Jesus’s words and teachings about feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, visiting those in prison, taking care of the earth, and rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.