In God we trust. It is the American motto and is inscribed on every bill and every coin in my pocket. So it must be true … right? I am not absolutely sure who the we is in this expression, but I assume it to mean the American public; you, me and the other 300 million plus people who live in this country. And surely all of us in this Christian nation trust in God … don’t we?
Trust, according to the dictionary, means ‘reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.’ I would think that reliance is the operative word here. If I trust in something, then I am relying on that something to come through for me in some way. I trust in Facebook and email for communication with people outside my home; in other words I rely on them to keep me in touch with friends and extended family. I trust in my truck to get me to the hardware store and back; I rely on it for transportation. I trust in my wife for many things, relying on her to make me more than I would otherwise be. I trust my government to send me a retirement check each month and to provide me with a certain level of physical security; if I could not rely on them for those things then I would have to work until I died, fortify my home and arm my person. And I trusted my surgeon to remove the cancer from my body; relying on him to do the job that he had been trained to perform.
But do I trust in God? I believe I do. I trust him for my eternity: “I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12 NIV) I trust him to provide me with a knowledge of his will for my life, both morally and with life direction. And I trust him to use whatever happens to me to shape me for his purpose. So yes, I believe I trust in God, at least for those things where that reliance is appropriate.
But what about our nation? Is it true that the American public actually trusts in God? According to recent surveys only about 3/4 of the population of our country makes any claims to being Christian. That means that 1/4 of our population either trusts in a different god or in no god at all. According to the American Religious Identification Survey 2001 (ARIS), 25% of people in Washington state, where I live, say they have no religion at all, or call themselves atheist, agnostic or secular. Only 42% say someone in their household is affiliated with a church, synagogue or mosque. Now Washington is considered the least religious state in the country, but the rest of the country seems to be in a hurry to catch up with us. It does make me wonder about the suitability of the motto “In God We Trust”.
I wonder; before 1956 when “In God We Trust” became the national motto, did we not trust in God? Or have we trusted him more since then? Would we trust him less if it was no longer our national motto? Personally I am pretty ambivalent about this phrase as a national motto and would not be heart broken if it was replaced by something more accurate. How about “Liberty and Justice For All”? Or maybe one that more accurately describes the American public: “What’s in it for me?”