In which God do we trust? |

In which God do we trust?

This past week, the Colorado Senate voted down a proposal sent to them from across the hall commanding all public schools in the state to display signs that announce our national motto: “In God We Trust.”

The problem, I am told, wasn’t a lack of support for the maxim but rather the accompanying provision that individuals could sue school districts if they refused to hang the signs, a technicality that might have generated a plethora of patriots to rise up in righteous indignation and costly litigation over disloyal school boards throughout the state.

Personally, I found the proposal problematic for a very different, albeit far more technical reason: Just exactly whose God are we trusting here?

I can pretty much guarantee the God I put my trust in is dramatically different than the God others are betting on. When I look at our national motto, I understand its mandate to be mighty different than what I hear described by other, equally religious citizens.

Recently, it was reported the murder conviction of a man named Robert Harlan is to be appealed on grounds the jury used a Bible in arriving at the sentence. It seems some of the jurors were less convinced than others that capital punishment was particularly appropriate for this particular case.

Out came someone’s pocket Bible and with it a pretty strong, if selective, case for lethal injection. (Actually, the Bible advocates the use of less savory means of ending a person’s life, usually including a large pile of big rocks.)

In any event, a little scriptural picking and choosing can make a pretty good case. On the other hand, a little choosing and picking can make a pretty good other case. Just depends on what part of the Bible you choose to pick or pick to choose.

 Same, if I may say so, for describing this God we Americans are supposed to be trusting.

 I, for one, am not going to trust a God who chooses to kill the first-born male of every Egyptian household or rejoices in the deaths of Egyptian soldiers drowned in the Red Sea or orders the total annihilation of the Ammonites and the Amalekites.

Nor am I going to put my trust in a God who ranks women below men or shows a decided loathing of homosexuals. Nope. I trust a different God than that one.

So you can see the dilemma. If we were going to make trusting God a part of our school’s architecture, we’d also have to make it a part of our curriculum and a very complicated curriculum it would be. 

The folks at Alcoholic’s Anonymous have managed to maneuver in these tricky waters by employing the term “Higher Power.” Although “In The Higher Power We Trust” doesn’t have the poetic ring of the original, it may be more representative of our diverse understandings.

In Judeo-Christian tradition, tossing around God’s name hither and yon is a most egregious error.

The very first commandment makes it clear the God of my religion doesn’t cotton any other religion’s God. Indeed the punishment for such heresy can be pretty severe. (See the pile of rocks above.)

 So, the senators, unknowingly perhaps, have undertaken a most beatific undertaking. By refusing to pursue this onerous piece of legislation, they have saved us from much classroom confusion.

 Thank you senators ,and thank God, whoever She is.

Columnist Rich Mayfield, a Lutheran pastor, writes a regular Saturday column. He can be reached at

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