In God We Trust?

Some Americans point to the motto on our coinage and currency — “In God We Trust” — as an indication of our godliness.

“In God We Trust”? Trust for what? When it comes to something really important — like our national security, we’ll rely on ourselves, thank you.

Judged by the criterion “Put your money where your mouth is,” I see the motto “In God We Trust” as a meaningless platitude, because we Americans spend as much on armed forces and weapons as on all other discretionary spending combined. Our 2003 military budget increase alone of $45 billion was comparable to the entire military budgets of Russia or China ($51 billion each).

“In God We Trust”? Hardly. In Stealth bombers we trust. In cruise missiles we trust. In Abrams tanks, in helicopter gunships, in laser-guided bombs we trust. And in our weapons of mass destruction — our arsenal of 7,000 thermonuclear weapons, the most abominable invention ever conceived by the mind of man — in them we trust.

“In God We Trust”? Nowhere in the defense policies of our country is there any acknowledgment of the existence of a God who is almighty.

The irony of our superpower self-reliance is that, just a few years ago, 19 young men proved that our billion-dollar-a-day military machine was powerless to protect us against two-dollar plastic box cutters.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of 9-11-2001 is that we didn’t really learn anything from that traumatic experience. Our only response was more of the same: more armed forces (and now in public places), more weapons, more money to try to buy national security — along with a determined avoidance of any search for the root causes of terrorism and of the anger and hatred expressed toward our country.

By labeling the hijackers “evildoers,” we dismissed the need for any examination of our own consciences regarding the policies we carry out toward other countries. We are, after all, “one nation under God.” We say so every time we pledge allegiance to the flag. And if we can just keep those two words “under God” in there, they alone can be our reality.

The late Henri Nouwen in his book Reaching Out (1975, Doubleday) wrote:

“There is no hope in denial or avoidance [of reality] for ourselves or anyone else. ... What keeps us from opening ourselves both to the reality of the world around us and to God’s healing? ... Could it be that we don’t want to give up our illusion that we are masters over our world, and therefore, create our own [fantasy]land where we can make ourselves believe that all events of life are safely under control? Could it be that our blindness and deafness are signs of our resistance to acknowledging that we are not the Lord of the Universe? Often we don’t realize how much we resent our powerlessness.”

God, help us to accept our own powerlessness and to depend on you for our security.

~ Jim Stoffels
15 April 2004

Copyright 2004 by Jim Stoffels