Conservatives are upset that when President Obama read the Gettysburg Address for Ken Burns he did not include the phrase “under God.” Actually, I’m glad Mr. Burns had President Obama read the original written address and not a later edited version. More about this in a moment.
God was not in the Battle of Gettysburg or the Civil War, and America is not “under God” today since a nation is known by its “fruit” and not by its confession alone:
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16–20).
So tell me, what type of “fruit” is our Congress growing? Good or bad?
In one sense, every nation is “under God” in that God is the judge of every nation. To be “under God” once meant to be under God’s moral scrutiny. Those who signed the Declaration of Independence appealed “to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of [their] intentions.” The word “rectitude” means morally right behavior. The founders called on God to judge whether what they were doing was right or wrong. God, not man, was the ultimate judge.
Even today, God is our Judge whether we acknowledge it or not, but this is not the way most people understand and use the phrase “under God” today. The phrase is generally used to mean that God is on our side and blesses us no matter what we do as a nation. It’s a mantra for approval.
But let’s be honest, in terms of America’s laws and policies, God has been rejected as our nation’s “Supreme Judge.” Yes, we can find examples of government pronouncements that we are “one nation under God” and “In God We Trust,” but is it really so? Does America really trust God? America trusts its own version of god, and in most cases it’s the State. Even people who believe in God have become willing wards of the State. (“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”: Matt. 6:21.) For the majority of Americans, they prefer free stuff from the State, money that is stolen from some citizens and given to others. That’s not rectitude.
Recently, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 supporting the “firing of an Ohio science teacher [John Freshwater] for insubordination because he refused to remove ‘religious materials’ from his classroom, including posters of President George Bush and Colin Powell praying.”
How does this decision square with the Congressional Prayer Room stained glass window that shows George Washington kneeling in prayer? “Surrounding him are the words from Psalm 16:1, ‘Preserve me, O God, for in thee do I put my trust.’ Above him are the words from Lincoln’s Gettysburg address: ‘This Nation Under God.’” There’s even a United States postage stamp depicting President Washington in prayer.
Not only are we not a nation under God’s favor, but we are a nation that has made it a point to disavow the religious past that made America great. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7 ).
What if John Freshwater had a copy of the Washington in prayer stained glass window hanging in his classroom? Would this have been a violation of the new national religious purge?
What about the Liberty Window that depicts a specific prayer event in America’s founding?
“At its initial meeting in September 1774 Congress invited the Reverend Jacob Duché (1738–1798), rector of Christ Church, Philadelphia, to open its sessions with prayer. Duché ministered to Congress in an unofficial capacity until he was elected the body’s first chaplain on July 9, 1776. . . . Pictured here in the bottom stained-glass panel is the first prayer in Congress, delivered by Duché. The top part of this extraordinary stained glass window depicts the role of churchmen in compelling King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215.”
You can see how absolutely anti-religious and unhistorical the schools and courts have become. Generation after generation of school-age children are having their memories wiped clean of anything related to America’s rich Christian heritage.
Now back to “under God” in the Gettysburg Address. “Under God” was not in Lincoln’s written version of the Address, and it was that version that Ken Burns wanted President Obama to read.
By all accounts, however, witnesses testified that Lincoln used the phrase “under God” when he delivered the speech. “[A]t least three reporters telegraphed the text of Lincoln’s speech on the day the Address was given with the words ‘under God’ included.” Subsequent editions of the Address include it. In fact, as the National Review Online notes, “there are five manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address and that Obama read from the ‘Nicolay Version.’ This version of the manuscript is believed to be the earliest of the copies of the Address, and it does omit the phrase ‘under God.’ Three of the five manuscripts do include the phrase.” (There’s a good discussion of this at Wikipedia.)
The Lincoln Memorial includes “under God” in its engraved replication of the Gettysburg Address.
Even with all of this background, the fact remains that America, in its official capacity as a government, does not acknowledge that it is “under God.”