Sunday, March 18, 2007

Taking God Out of Politics

It is said that history is written by the victors. If the victors are oppressive, that is probably a valid conclusion. Even if the victors are benevolent and open the history books more often than not teach history with a pro-conqueror slant.

But sometimes it’s not only the victors who get the greatest say in what the history books teach us. Sometimes the groups that speak the loudest can inject the unofficial historical record with biases in their favor.

Take a look at any piece of currency in your pocket and you’ll read the motto of the United States, “In God we trust.” Recite the pledge of allegiance and listen to the words this time. We are described as “one nation under God.” Or watch the next time an official is sworn in. They place their hands on the bible and promise to do their duties, so help them God.

These phrases were prescribed by politicians for the purposes of political rhetoric. They are not mandated by the Constitution.

The Magna Carta, written in 1215, is widely recognized as the touchstone of modern political liberty. It influenced the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The Magna Carta was a charter that limited the power of kings, who were widely recognized as deriving their power from God. Thus, it was one of the first documents written that transferred some power from God to the people.

God is mentioned five times in the Magna Carta. It followed the tradition of all legal documents of its day by referring to God multiple times.

When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, they wrote a governing charter called the Mayflower Compact. It’s a very short document, barely three paragraphs long. Yet it mentions God four times.

But when the United States was taking shape as a separate country and pulling away from England, the references to God in official documents decreased substantially. God is mentioned only once in the Declaration of Independence. It also mentions an unnamed Creator which we can take as being God, but that language was not included in the original draft; it was added later by the Continental Congress.

The Declaration of Independence was the people’s contention that the vicarious will of God through the King of England did not apply to them. Instead, the new country they were establishing would be governed through the consent of the people.

After the Revolutionary War finally won us our independence, a new constitution was penned. In it, God is not mentioned a single time, not once. There is no reference to the Creator or any supernatural being, except in the date at the end, which was standard form for the day.

It isn’t that the Founders forgot to include God in their work. They left him out on purpose. This new nation was supposed to be free from the oppressive nature of religion that had been prevalent in England. It was founded on religious freedom, not on any particular religion. Many of those signing the Constitution were not Christians. Some were not religious at all.

Yet if you ask most people who don’t know their history, they will probably tell you that this country was founded on Christianity, by Christian men of faith.

And that is why it is so important for school children to learn real history in school and not rely on propaganda espoused by some pastors and politicians. We gave the power to govern to the people a long time ago. Politicians like Pres. Bush declare publicly that their power comes from God.

Bush sent troops into Iraq and is keeping them there, because of his own personal manifest destiny. He believes that God put him in office to free Iraq, and he intends to stay the course until it’s over. And so, each month, more young Americans are killed needlessly because Bush has a God complex.

When I was in school, I didn’t see the value in learning history. Now I do.

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