You cannot serve God and gold (Matt 6:24).
In this translation, the word gold is an acceptable substitute for mammon since most folks have no idea what the word mammon means. New Testament scholars would understand it as an unhealthy “adoration” of created wealth and therefore a sinful choice to stop worshipping the Creator. We can also think of it as an addiction to financial greed and a refusal to love the Lord and those neighbors who are less fortunate than we are through no fault of their own.
So, when and why did the motto “In God We Trust” find its way onto, of all things, our currency? If the Bible says we cannot serve two masters, namely God and money, why did Congress bind them together into an inseparable display at the mint? The answer is war.
Foxholes Without Atheists
The American Civil War (April 12, 1861-May 9, 1865), caused by threats of secession and the expansion of slavery, prompted our politicians to let God have His two-cents worth, literally, on a two-cent coin. We should recall that this Union-Confederacy feud claimed the lives of more American soldiers than all subsequent wars combined. Hoping that appeals to the Almighty might raise the nation’s consciousness enough to put an end to the brother-against-brother violence, Reverend Mark R. Watkinson wrote a letter, dated Nov. 13, 1861, to the Treasury Department requesting that this national motto be inscribed on our coins in an effort to stop the bloodshed. The Treasury Secretary, Salmon Chase, and Mint Director, James Pollock, responded positively to his request and in 1864 the Philadelphia mint struck the first two-cent piece to be engraved with the words “In God We Trust” on its obverse (head) side. Eventually this profession of faith appeared on every U.S. denomination from pennies to $100 bills.
Atheists Above Ground
Over the years, atheists and civil libertarians have brought litigations against this practice on the justification that it is a blatant infringement upon their first and 14th constitutional amendment rights. They claim that putting the word “God” on any government product or building is tantamount to establishing a state religion and that being forced to carry the word “God” on their person violates their freedom for religious equality, namely to deny God’s existence. Wisely, court justices have continually ruled against these lawsuits. Some might conclude that even though the spending value of our dollar declines, our trust in God remains firm.
No More Plastic Jesus
Mounted cameras, GPS guides and coffee cup holders have all but replaced the statues of Jesus and medals of St. Christopher which used to center themselves on the dashboards of our cars. Likewise, this cherished God-phrase is vanishing in our transition from currency to credit cards. Although the use of plastic is steadily replacing legal tender, has anyone seen the words “In God We Trust” on a Master or Visa Card? Perhaps the atheists who rail against our patriotic maxim will win their case by default. After all, if we stop using cash altogether, their battle to remove the motto becomes a moot point.
Will Future “Bits” Be Better or Bitter?
Bitcoins seem to be on the horizon and poised to banish charge cards to the recycle bin forever. We will probably never see the words “In God We Trust” on these computer-generated images. Erasing God will come as a relief to atheists and as a confirmation to the legislators who argued that “the cost of removing this national slogan from our engraving plates would be prohibitive and besides, no one takes it seriously anyhow.”
For one month, let’s place two cents, obverse up, on the kitchen table as a pledge that we do take “In God We Trust” seriously. Each time we read these words on those coins, let’s offer a prayer of thanks for those who died to end slavery and unify our nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Comments can be sent to FatherBobPagliar@Yahoo.com
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here