Examine any U.S. coin or currency and you’ll find America’s national motto, “In God We Trust.” One may easily dismiss its profound significance in our nation’s rise. Some dismiss it as “only words.” President Abraham Lincoln purportedly replied in a letter regarding the North and South War, asking him if he believed God was on his side. Lincoln said, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” “In God We Trust,” is actually an affirmation of what has occurred since, and before our Founding.
The suggestion to recognize it on our currency initially came during the “war between the states” from a Pennsylvania minister, M.R. Watkinson, who said, “From my heart I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters,” as he wrote to Samuel Chase, Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury. Chase was inspired by the suggestion, and he instructed the U.S. Mint to come up with a motto recognizing that “no nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except for His defense.” So it is.
On April 22, 1864, Congress passed legislation authorizing use of the phrase, “In God We Trust,” the official national motto. That phrase continues to this day to remind us that our nation has long found strength through faith in God, and that He has bestowed upon us His manifold blessings on America, ensuring the possibility for freedom and liberty. It first appeared on two-cent coins issued that year. For many years after that the slogan appeared on some coins-but not others. In 1956, Congress made “In God We Trust “ the official national motto-not imposing religion-but publicly acknowledging God’s overarching presence.
Throughout our brief history as a Republic, politicians and leaders have invoked God’s help in moments and periods of tumult, trial, terror and celebration. At Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865, invoked our Beneficent Father, “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.” In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt’s Proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer beseeched Him for “a continuation of your great blessings.” Episcopalian George Washington’s Circular Address to the United States, June 8, 1783, petitioned “Almighty God to keep the United States in your holy protection.”
President Truman’s quotidian prayer journal chronicled his personal dependence on God to guide him and, “Make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me.” At the behest of the oldest delegate at the Constitutional Convention, 81 year-old Benjamin Franklin, a deist, reminded his colleagues, that they should pray for guidance, as he had at the start of the Revolutionary War. “Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered,” he said. “And have we forgotten that powerful Friend?” Franklin blistered the members with “his sermon,” as he continued, “Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? 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. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without HIs notice, it is probable that an empire can rise without His aid.” Atheist are in short supply during times of upheaval and war.
This same staid reliance on the Holy God wasn’t relegated to only Presidents. On March 23, 1775, with hostilities between Americans and British troops breaking out in New England, patriot Patrick Henry, devout Christian, stood in a packed St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, and made a fiery polemic to the Second Virginian Convention that the time had arrived for the colonies to gather their strength and commit themselves to action. Those ringing words still echo in our ears today regarding the cost of freedom. Henry said, “Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace-but there is not peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms. Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at any price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Our nation’s moral landscape is nearly unrecognizable; shifting from a Christian oasis to a pagan desert. Since 1973, we’ve witnessed women slaughtering over 60 million unborn. As a nation, we sanction and promote same sex marriage. Homosexuals publicly declare moral equivalency. Transgenderism’s nascent has degenerated into another perplexing scourge. Moral confusion. Sexual confusion. Gender confusion. The author of confusion is known to many. Our Founders couldn’t have imagined this tragic declivity. John Adams, a Unitarian, warned, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It’s wholly inadequate to the government of an other.” Whose side are we on?
Morality’s now grounded in the next sitcom or social media platform. Founder’s notion of Providence often encompassed the Christian message, which is historical to its core. It’s doctrines arise from God’s self-disclosure throughout history to mankind. Evangelicals aren’t called to diplomacy, or theological aphasia. Our greatest threat isn’t a Christian theocracy, but a secular assault on liberty.
Our greatest need is the unapologetic proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a nation reeling from spiritual atrophy. Lincoln was right. We need to be on God’s side. C.S. Lewis said, “Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us a chance. It won’t last forever. We must take it or leave it.” It commences with embracing the testimony of the Holy Scriptures. Admittedly, there’s too much “God talk” absent genuine Biblical fervor, and even more fence straddling. Hot or cold? What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org