Emmitsburg Council of Churches

In God we Trust?

Father John J. Lombardi

Is there hostility to Religion in America today? Imagine a bulldozer wrecking down the forty foot Cross in Arlington National Cemetery. Think of a sandblaster defacing Moses from the frieze over the Supreme Court building. Imagine saying the Pledge of Allegiance without the words, "one Nation, under God…" Will all this glory and godly glitter go? We may soon be dealing with a new kind of censorship. Yes, that is what may happen-the expurgation of Faith, prayer, God, public displays of any kind of religion in public life. The country that was founded by Pilgrims seeking freedom of religion is now being foundered by secularists seeking false freedom from religion.

Last week the Supreme Court heard cases from Kentucky and Texas on the validity-or "intrusion"-of the Ten Commandments in public life. Last year a judge in Alabama literally guarded a two ton rock-display of the Ten Commandments in his building. He was unsuccessful-the Commandments were removed, along with the judge himself, possibly precipitating the court hearing last week. At last week's Supreme Court hearing at least a couple justices asked lawyers about the possibility of hostility toward religion in this milieu. That gives one hope, if not pause to think, of the tremendous affects the Ten Commandments are in our public life. So, will defacing and demolition of the Divine continue? May phrases like "so help me God," which witnesses say, with hand on Bible at court hearings, go, too? What about "In God we Trust" on our money? And there's the Star Spangled Banner (Francis Scott Key was born a couple miles from the Grotto)--will it go, too, if the justices rule against public display of any mention of God or Faith? These phrases have been used and even promoted for centuries, by a God-fearing nation, but, now, are threatened?

The secularists (those who want little or no mention of God or religion in our public discourse) have controlled the language and airwaves of these spiritual squabbles, promoting monikers like "wall of separation between church and state", and promoting mindsets like the "religious oppression of individual rights" and so forth. This is not always subtle subterfuge-it is often outright hostility toward religion. Some individuals and groups have pulled the wool over our collective eyes. But, can you name anyone who has been forced, coerced, or imposed upon to believe in God, or say a prayer in school or memorize the Ten Commandments? Secularists would have us believe this is common. The Court's ruling will possibly effect widespread ramifications, just as the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling did for allowing abortion, the killing of innocent babies.

As one lawyer said at last Thursday's hearing, the ruling may affect menorahs (the seven candlestick stand representative of Judaism), Nativity scenes, prayer in public, school Bible groups, godly mottoes on money, general religious discourse and, most broadly, Just Who Are We-are we really, a religious nation? I'm no "bomb thrower" but the eventual goal of the removal of the Commandments (ditto for atheistic evolution, materialism and supremacist secularism)-though not always conscious and intended -is the push toward agnosticism and atheism, a banishment of God from our lives. Don't be surprised, shocked-it's in our blood- rebellion, I mean. The Devil (dia-bolos means "to throw across") engineered disobedience of God and His Commandments in the Garden of Eden. Today some groups and individuals try to move from God to man-centered living in our beloved country.

That's the Bottom Line. We must realize there are enemies of religion and the Ten Commandments, and that this battle is not just physical and legal, but metaphysical and supernatural. St Paul says: "Our struggle is not just against flesh and blood but with the powers and principalities…of this present darkness" (Eph. 6:12). There are also opponents of the Commandments in various Faith-traditions, the places you would least expect them. I recently heard a Jewish rabbi (of the Reformed branch) and a Baptist minister speak out against the display of the Ten Commandments. Years ago I heard opposition to prayer in school from a spokesman of our National Catholic Conference.

We Catholics and all Christians-and Jews, too, need to evangelize, mobilize, spiritually energize, and speak out for our religious rights and liberties. Part of The Rebellion plan is anarchy-the reversal of God's rule to man's: assisted suicide and partial birth abortion, sodomy and promiscuity. Wake up-it's all around us because the Spiritual Fabric of our souls and society-The Commandments-is being neglected and, perhaps now, rejected. The biblical prophets job-the Isaiah's and Jonah's-was to wake and shake up a slothful and secularly-slavish Israel. Their Bottom line? Do good and avoid evil.

Well, now, just think, this is being reversed: do evil --abort, contracept children, euthanize elderly and the deemed handicapped; promote pornography and "same sex unions"; live like Mammon materialists and capitalist slaves by consuming and craving for endless possessions; and avoid good: like acknowledging God-as-Creator; sacrificial suffering (see article under briefly noted on "Religion of Health"); prayer and public faith. So, don't ever forget: The Ten Commandments are a bedrock of our souls and society. The culture is now giving us sandstone-slippery and surrealistic "laws" and customs antithetical to God and basic decency. Now consider a remarkable article from New York Times (Feb 27), "Putting God Back Into American History," where we may learn according to author David D. Kirkpatrick:

  1. "Jefferson signed letters "in the year of Our Lord Christ."
  2. David Barton, vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, is a point man in a growing movement to call attention to the open Christianity of America's great leaders and founding documents He gives a barefoot (!) "spiritual heritage" tour to thousands of visitors.
  3. Legislators in a dozen states have passed American Heritage Education Acts intended to protect teachers who discuss religion's role in history.
  4. The Founders never imagined a culture as secular as ours. …many states had tax-supported churches. 5. Washington, the first president was indeed a heartfelt Christian: his "prayer for America"…urging citizens to imitate "the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our Blessed Religion."
  5. Jefferson approved the use of the Capital and other public buildings for church services and attended himself, even enlisting a military band to play religious music.
  6. Lincoln['s]… speeches overflowed with Bible verses…during the ravages of the Civil War, he took his questions to God. …he wrote a private essay, "Meditation on the Divine Will"…which ideas ended up in his Second Inaugural Address.
  7. Fact of the founders' Christianity… "If we are arguing off the premise that we have to be secular today because we have always been secular," [Mr. Barton] said, "then we are arguing off the wrong premise." Did you learn any of this in your history class? Will all this be denigrated, deleted, from our National Faith-History? One day I visited Russia and Moscow, and I astoundingly gawked at "The State Museum of Atheism". It actually existed. It was huge-and ugly. Will we have such a thing sometime in downtown Washington?

Here's "The Rub": Secularists promote the myth that displaying the Ten Commandments = promoting religion. No, not so! Use your simple common sense. Follow these steps:

  1. The Ten Commandments are universal, Natural-law principles which every person in the world, irrespective of faith or particular religion, can know and follow. For instance, don't kill, don't steal, don't crave for other peoples' spouses or material possessions. These are all applicable to everyone-including melting-pot Americans.
  2. It does not follow that everyone is forced to believe or follow them-but they are invited to them-because, as our country has learned, they are "godly glue" for the common good.
  3. Our country is historically founded upon Judeo-Christian religions, not Buddhism, Confucianism or Islam. We should neither oppress others with this historical fact nor be embarrassed by it.

Conclsuion: So, we can both recognize the role of The Ten Commandments (emanating form Judeo-Christian culture, not just one religion) and refrain from imposing these (principles) upon any individual. In essence, we are a religious country without any one "official religion". It is this Chaplain's hope that this is the "middle course" the Supreme Court will take-recognizing, respecting our religious history-and the display of it in today's events-- while not "baptizing" a particular religion. This is the most commonsensical and accurate approach, given our history, and all those faith-facts mentioned above. The extremist positions are: enforcing and endorsing a public religion, and total secularism whereby there is an erasure of Faith in our public life.

Myths dominating today's America:

  1. Strict wall of separation between Church and state. The Founders never believed or lived this, and so neither should we fall for this simplistic bumper-sticker subterfuge. (See above article contents.)
  2. isplaying Ten Commandments is against the Constitution. Look: what was the intent of framers?-Not to establish any one particular religion, yes, but also not to ignore foundational spiritual elements, precisely like The Ten Commandments, and reliance upon Divine Providence which are all over our money, hearts (hopefully) and courthouses. A lawyer said last Thursday that there are 42 depictions of the Ten Commandments within the Supreme Court itself . Forty-two!
  3. Imposing religion on others. Look, we can analogize from what Pope John Paul says about our own Faith-we shall never impose it, we only propose it. In this Country, given our Faith-history, we propose the sentiments and principles (Commandments) of religious Faith, but should ever impose it. Now, if this is good enough for Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson, it should be good for us and, what's wrong with that?
  4. We are a secularist country: No, our country was clearly founded upon Judeo Christian principles and history. We are neither secularists nor religious fanatics who impose Faith upon others (see all the above).

Giving rise to all these masticating myths has been a slow emaciation since the 1950's and 1960's when hostility toward religion began, as strict secularists gained ground, power and domination of language-discourse. George Orwell, famous English authors said those who control language control power and re-shape "reality' for others. Translated: say it enough and they'll believe it. The steamroller of separation of church and state continue-almost unabated until today. Just remember the title of that New York Times piece, "Putting God Back into American History." Says it all. So, now, you can help! The Bible, Jesus, the Popes, the Vatican Councils all call you to mobilize and energize your baptismal promises and discipleship to holiness. We can possibly embody this by furthering our Country's religious Freedoms and Principles. You can be Catholic and an American Countryman-if you don't let others steal Faith-expressions from you. You are called to be holy-and that sometimes means being unpopular, standing against the lasiez faire attitudes of Americanism (a kind of sloth spread by secularism), but, will you? How to Respond: Pray-for the Supreme Court Justices-now! Fast-Jesus and St John the Baptist did for forty days-how about you? Or make a sacrifice for God or neighbor-do something that costs you some time, talent, treasure, or comfort. Review and Revise the Revisionism-truly learn about how our Country was founded and re-founded upon Godly principles which form the bedrock of Civilization. Prophetic: challenge slumbering disciples and others who refuse God and His Way of life Remember-we're One Nation under God!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi