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Under God


© 2002, Joyce A. Kovelman, Ph.D., Ph.D.


The United States will celebrate its Independence Day on July 4th. Yet, as I write this article, I am filled with great concern and discontent. On one hand, we are promised the right to worship a God of our choosing, and in return, we are asked to respect the different religious practices and beliefs of our neighbors. Admittedly, the United States has greatly changed since the events of 9-11. Now we live with less security and greater vigilance. But can vigilance be applied too liberally, and thereby lead to negative, rather than positive consequences? Indeed, there are voices who proclaim that since 9-11, many of our basic freedoms and civil rights are silently being eroded and taken away, as the rest of the country passively and naively looks the other way. How can this be?


A case in point is the recent court decision claiming that it is unconstitutional to recite the "Pledge of Allegiance" in our public schools. I anticipate that this decision will soon lead to the recall of all U. S. currency, since "In God We Trust" appears on all our coins and bills. But, the phrase, "In God We Trust" does not  dictate which particular God to believe in, nor does it tell us that we must believe in God. We are free to choose whether to believe or not, and which spiritual path to follow. Thus, I am totally shocked with this recent court decision. I can hardly believe that this is happening in our country. Almost 40 years ago, we had public debate pertaining to the addition of two powerful words to this pledge, "Under God." Why reopen the debate at this profound, intense moment in history? I personally believe that we can still honor the separation of Church and State, while simultaneously acknowledging the right of each citizen to believe in a greater power, as long as we refrain from designating which God one must worship.


One of the consequences of our secular, materialistic world view is the loss of meaning, ethics, morality and vision in our culture. Humanity has strangely hijacked and usurped God's vision and has, instead, turned it towards its own sense of entitlement, importance, and greed. Now it is humanity, or at least its elite, that rule the world. Now we turn our children into suicide bombers and strike at random and without warning in the name of God. We have severed our roots to the Divine and have declared God is dead, and now we worship Gold instead. No wonder, we cannot evoke the name of the Divine in the Pledge of Allegiance.


And what kind of world has humankind's greed, lust, hate and violence created? We have millions of poor, hungry, frightened and enraged people, young and old, who see nothing but more poverty and suffering ahead. Rather than live a disconnected, meaningless life of constant pain and deprivation, they seek a noble death, and feel justified in taking life, anyone's life, in their act of dying for a cause. And I suspect, any cause can become a reason for dying, if one believes that they are correct, and they are helping their families and communities. Why live so desperately, when one's death brings hope, dignity and retribution to one's soul and family? Until we address the insanity of humanity and the need to embrace all humanity with dignity and possibility, we will not see the end of terrorism. Nor will we replenish and restore Earth's bounty until we acknowledge her sovereignty and our dependence upon her to feed clothe, shelter, and support us. The plants blossomed on Earth long before humanity walked upon our planet, providing a supporting atmosphere of oxygen as well as absorption of carbon dioxide and resources for humankind to survive. When will we understand that we are killing our selves as we pollute and destroy our planet? Are we not the suicide terrorists who will deprive our own children of the necessities of life by the way we have wantonly destroyed our forests, allowed the ozone hole to expand, polluted air, land and sea and passively watch as half of Earth's creatures become extinct.


This proverb from Kenya reminds us to,


"Take good care of the earth,

She was not given to you by your parents,

She was lent to you by your children."

Only by recognizing that we live "Under God" and "In God We Trust," will humankind survive. Recognition and acknowledgment that we are part of a greater whole, that we are deeply rooted in the underground stream of life that gives rise to - and supports our world, can we hope to evolve into a more noble, ethical, loving humanity. This means surrendering to the greater mystery all around us, returning to source, and learning to live with all of God's creatures, big and small: two-legged, four-legged, crawling ones, flying ones and swimming ones. This means honoring each individual's unique path of understanding and being in the world. And it means that we each have the choice to believe or not to believe in God, and as well as the choice as to how we practice such beliefs.


We cannot any longer use God to justify war, hate, poverty, suicide, or terror. We can no longer destroy Earth or any human being because they are of different faiths, nationalities, and creeds. As Americans, we carry the vision of all creeds, all beliefs, all skins coming together as one people. It is this very vision that has guaranteed all of us our Bill of Rights, and civil freedoms. It is this same vision that has kept the United States strong and steadfast, and it has always been a vision -"Under God" and "In God we Trust," from the moment of our Republic's inception by the Founding Fathers of the United States of America in 1776.


Only by refusing to politicize God, will we remain free. If we have any doubt, let us look at the use of God to justify terrorism. Let us look at communist countries that banished God and religion from their police states, and let us also consider the countries wherein a State religion is the rule, and choice and dissent disallowed. We cannot use God to justify our politics. Instead, we must create and participate in an "ethical politic, which honors and reflects the Source of all Existence."


This July 4th, let us ask ourselves whether we wish our planet and our species (all of us -black, red, brown, yellow and white) to survive, and whether we are ready to become co-creators with the Source of all life. We must remember as well, that, "… The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life. He is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself." Chief Seattle


It is by acknowledging the greater mystery of which we are all a part, that we will discover our real humanity. It is through awareness, that we will stop politicizing God to justify our corruption, greed, wars, and domination over others. When we understand that we are destroying the very planet that nurtures and sustain us, solutions to our ecological crises will be found. And by surrendering to a higher source and acknowledging that the spark of the Divine dwells deep within each and every person, we will learn to live with one another, peacefully, "Under God," (both yours and mine). Then will we truly bestow liberty and justice, and opportunity for All.    Let us make it so!


P.S. I welcome and invite your comments and replies to my ideas.

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