In the State of the Union, Obama invoked Kennedy and Regan in the same sentence in reference to their vision of a world without nuclear weapons. This got me thinking about what other things both parties have in common.
Obama ended his speech saying "God Bless You, God Bless the United States of America." This has recently become the standard presidential way to sign off. But the use of "God Bless America" was first uttered in a presidential speech by -- are you ready -- Nixon, in 1973, while trying to manage the Watergate scandal.
According to David Domke and Kevin Coe, authors of The God Strategy: How Religion Became a Political Weapon in America, Presidents from Roosevelt to Carter did sometimes make requests for God's blessing, such as "May God give us wisdom" or "With God's help," but it was the galloping Regan who popularized God with invocations in 90 percent of his speeches. Clinton and George W. Bush followed respectively, with the high and mid eighty percentages.
Is our modern world so much more complicated that we now need God more? Are our current leaders more strongly religious than their predecessors; or is placing the noun God in a speech, as Domke and Coe suggest, a savvy way to "pass the God and Country test? "
According to a 2008 poll taken by The Washington Post, 92 percent of Americans believe in God. And despite the separation of Church and State, first traced in a letter of Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to Danbury Baptists, we can't take God out of government. Separation of Church and State in America was originally intended to protect each individual's religious conscious, allow freedom of thought, and religious tolerance. Fortunately, the law also protects the State from being powered by one official religious authority, such as the Church of England.
God is not separate from anything, or anyone. So it's impossible to prevent God from being visible in our government.
Our current pledge of allegiance contains the phrase, "One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."The words under God were added to the original sentence of 1892, in response to a Communist threat perceived by President Eisenhower in 1954. But was the sentence altered to mean it's our nation that's indivisible, or God that's indivisible -- with liberty and justice for all?
The presence of God is everywhere, even on our money. On almost every coin and dollar the same line is printed: In God We Trust. (Take note, if you possess currency that does not include this line, you have a collector's item.) What many people don't know is that In God We Trust became the official motto of the United States in 1956. It replaced E Pluribus Unum which appears on the Great Seal of the United States, because that phrase was never officially legislated.
The way I see it, E Pluribus Unum remains important, because we are One. Not just individual states that comprise our nation, but as individuals who comprise our world. And it's time to trust in our individual selves to create the world we want to see.
All the best,