Being 'one nation under God' is difficult
When the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in the frigid Cold War, we were sole proprietors of the atomic bomb. Then in 1949 the Soviets exploded one of their own. We were stunned. We had lost our "leg up" in case we met them in a showdown.
So we cast about for something that would restore our superiority. After several years of assessment, we hit upon a great idea. We amended the Pledge of Allegiance to include "one nation under God".
It was a presumptive move. I mean the idea that we could be the one nation under God. They told me in Sunday school that there was only one God and all nations were under him. Maybe we thought we were relieving God of responsibility for all other nations.
To my knowledge, no one asked God to get his opinion about being made a pawn in the Cold War purely for own nationalistic reasons. No one confirmed that we had God's approval.
We knew the Russians could not match this move because they didn't give God the time of day. All they had was Nikita Khrushchev and he would be no match for God. We really had those godless commies this time.
But what does it mean for a nation to be under God? Is it just a statement of fact or is it a pledge of national conduct.
The Bible says that God wants people to be righteous because he is righteous. Does our pledge of allegiance mean that our national policies must be righteous? Or is the whole thing a spoof to intimidate the Russians?
This raises another question. Were we not a nation under God before 1954? What was our status before 1954? Did we become more righteous after 1954? Does our polarized Congress consider righteousness when it passes laws?
Now if being "one nation under God" requires national righteousness, we may want to reconsider the claim because we can't fool an omniscient God about our righteousness or the lack thereof. He knows.
To be righteous, I suppose we must confess our national sins and repent. Repentance means that we must turn from unrighteous ways and not be a wicked nation.
We probably won't agree on a repentance list. Decades of slavery? Murdering Indians for their land? Stealing half of Mexico? Wall Street greed?
Then there was the recent presidential campaign when we heard more lies than truths and we discovered that the whole country was full of hatred and anger. It was a "one nation under God" shock and awe for the rest of the world to see.
Now if there is going to be a day of judgment for nations, will God gather everybody who ever lived in the United States and make us answer for the sins of the country? Would he go back to Plymouth Rock or only as far as 1954? If found guilty, would every citizen be sent to the outer darkness? Or just the president and Congress?
We hadn't answered these questions when Congress in 1955 added "In God We Trust" to our paper money.
The claim appeared on our coins in 1864, suggesting that our nation didn't trust in God before 1864.
Our military budget has grown steadily since we claimed to trust in God. Does this suggest that our trust in God is decreasing? President-elect Donald Trump is loading up on generals. What does that say about trust in God?
Someday, Switzerland will call us out for claiming to be "one nation under God." It will be embarrassing, like when the kids were shouting "the emperor has no clothes."
I think I'd rather deal with God personally than leave it to the government.
Lloyd Omdahl, of Grand Forks, is a former lieutenant governor, state tax commissioner and state budget director.