One nation under God?

By John P. Warren

Guest commentator, Institute for Faith & Freedom at Grove City College

"I had no idea how critical religion is to the functioning of democracy." So said a Marxist economist from China conversing with Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen.

This Chinese Communist supposed that American democracy has worked because "most Americans, most of the time, follow the rules, not just because they are accountable to society, but because they are accountable to God."

According to Pew Research Center's Nov. 15 report on religious views held by Republicans and Democrats, 71 percent of Republicans believe churches and religious organizations do more good than harm and serve as a uniting force (68 percent).

More interestingly, among Democrats, 91 percent of African-Americans and 82 percent of Hispanics appear to be on the same page with Republicans, but fully a third of white Democrats believe it's "a good thing that religion is losing influence in society."

The implications are startling.

A Gallup report from April 18 supports the Pew data differently. In 1948, for example, 76 percent of Americans considered themselves a "member" of a church, synagogue, or mosque, while in 2018, only 50 percent did so.

Today, amongst Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), 84 percent have a religious preference, while amongst Millennials (born 1980-2000), only 68 percent make such a claim.

Worse, those with no religious affiliation whatsoever more than doubled from 8% in 1998-2000 to 19 percent in 2016-2018. In only 20 years.

Pew's research on church attendance adds a telling perspective. Of the twelve religious sects tracked, only Jehovah's Witnesses have a strong percentage (85 percent) of regular attendance, while evangelical Protestants track at 58 percent, but Catholics and mainline Protestants fall into the 30 percent range, and Jews attending services are less than 20 percent.

Is it any wonder, then, that so many in our nation have strayed from our founding Judeo-Christian principles?

Civility remains in decline. Incidents of anti-Semitism are up. Conservatives holding to traditional values on issues like gender and sexual orientation often feel they cannot speak openly or safely, especially on college campuses.

In another era, those who held fast to standards of civil conduct and private behavior were called the Moral Majority, or the Silent Majority. The data and examples above suggest that nothing could be further from our everyday experiences in America today.

In 1954, President Eisenhower added "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance that every schoolchild recited every day, hand over heart. In 1956, Congress added "In God We Trust" to our currency.

It is hard to imagine that progressives would support those actions today, especially if championed by a Republican president.

Naysayers want to argue that when we were a more religious nation, we advocated bigotry and racism.

To the contrary, I would argue that precisely because there was a large majority of people believing in accountability to an Almighty we steadily erased those blots on our national character. Christian abolitionists -- not atheists -- led the charge against slavery.

Secular progressives in government -- local, state, and federal -- have succeeded in ejecting God from the classroom and the public square. Today, everywhere, God is being removed from our daily lives and from the hearts of many who no longer see a need for the Almighty.

To many Americans today, the Ten Commandments are a quaint set of ideas, but little more. Our children have been taught to embrace (at best) so-called social justice and (at worst) state socialism.

We seem to be on the slip-slide toward an age in which our children and grandchildren will be much less "under God" than we were. In fact, according to the data from Pew and from Gallup, we're already there.

Professor Christensen capped the point well, "If you take away religion, you can't hire enough police." Even the Chinese Communist knew our nation needs to be one where, "In God We Trust," must be more than empty sounds of the past.

Why? Because our Judeo-Christian heritage means we are anchored in The Commandments, a moral compass for today just as when Moses brought them down from Sinai. Church and State may be separate, but God and Democracy are not.

President Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation recounted "the gracious gifts of the Most High God." He knew Providence was the moving force of national survival. Today, do we?