Under God


7/10/02

Editor
The Arizona Daily Star

Dear editor:

In recent days I’ve heard a lot of freethinking souls come forward to applaud the ruling by which the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is held to be in violation of the constitutional separation of Church and state. As a Catholic, let me say that I agree, though for quite different reasons from those proposed by our atheist brethren. Their perception of it is that there should be no imposition of Christian (or any other) dogma in the practical conduct of a secular and pluralistic society. Mine is that the utilitarian post-Hegelian gods constructed by societies to justify their strategies of collective survival bear no resemblance to the idea of God as held by people who perceive the necessity of a creative agency and who bring the highest and most beautiful levels of human dialectic to bear on the contemplation of our connection to what has been called the Divine Nature. A Christianized Pledge of Allegiance contributes to the diminishment of our experience of God by connecting it to mere patriotism. Churches should be under God. Societies should be under politicians, bankers and despots.

“We the people...” it says here in another document, “in order to form a more perfect union...” Am I reading this wrong? It seems to say that the people have gotten together to form a union, which is our United States. As a secular power, it is an association of men, the body of the people. Not to be confused with the Church, which is the body of Christ. The USA has not been visited with a divine mandate to order the world and smite our enemies as though they were the enemies of God Himself. That was King George’s ridiculous idea - the Divine Right of Kings - and his justification to suppress the Colonies. It is Justice Scalia’s ridiculous idea, that he is an agent of Divine Vengeance, perfectly justified in ordering the executions of children and retardates along with all other wrongdoers deemed unfit to live under Mosaic Law. It is George Bush’s idea, apparently, when he presumes to declare who on the face of this earth is evil and who is not. This is sheer hubris. If it is all the same, please, I don’t take my moral guidance from Texas businessmen.

It isn’t hard to understand why a state would want to be perceived as an order of anointed knights under the protection of Almighty God, its chauvinistic agenda gilded by its very identity with the purposes of the Deity, its every bombing raid underwritten with the benign approval of the Creator of the Universe. But let’s pretend for a moment that this legitimizing, partisan God actually exists. At what point in our history did He appear to an American Abraham and adopt us as His chosen people? At no point. It was we, in fact, who made that immodest declaration. I’m trying to imagine what it must have been like for the Creator of the Universe when He first heard that a pack of juvenile delinquents had declared Him to be their legal sponsor. Or when He discovered that the keys to the car were missing and that his self-proclaimed spiritual wards were off plundering foreign oil and dropping explosives on people with funny hats on His august behalf.

It is one thing to ask for a degree of strength or wisdom we do not possess, and another to make the jaw gompering claim that everybody in the CIA is a card-carrying soldier of Christ. To assume that appending the name of God to our oaths of patriotism is going to coax a single beam of divine grace upon our frequently monstrous deeds sounds heretically naive. It is demeaning to the religious intuition in men. It falsifies and politicizes the vast and subtle Nature which priests and mystics and theologians have struggled for centuries to comprehend, nullifying and subverting it to rank Machiavellian expediency. Talk about hijacking religion! This is God after all, not Daddy Warbucks. Not Adnan Keshoge.

Like every other association of fools groping through the darkness of history, it is appropriate for us to pray most humbly for the dumb luck to accomplish our goals without too much damage to ourselves or others. But let us not embarrass our Creator by pulling out bogus credentials and pretending we are in His employ, or that His presence is uniquely implicit in the foundations of our society. The imperative that urges us to seize power and acquire wealth is purely hormonal and is only a remote reflection of God, who is the very essence and source of power and value and love. His is an underlying and inclusive Reality, and has no need to hire mercenaries to accomplish historical goals that look suspiciously like our own.

So you bet. Leave His glorious name out of our questionable doings. If we can’t find the innate common decency to achieve peace with our fellow man, telling everybody that God is on our side isn’t going to do the trick either.

Michael Moore
Oracle, Arizona