Where we really lost ourselves (a response to the 'Lost America' article)
Last week, I was one of the many thousands who shared an article on social media by Kyle R. Reyes entitled Enjoy your transgender bathrooms. We just lost America. In it, Reyes highlights many of the problems we’re currently facing as a society, pointing out that we’re fearful and anxious, because perhaps we were wrong about one of our main assumptions. He writes:
We were wrong because of one simple line that I believe may have been written wrong. It should have read, “One Nation, Divisible After All.”
He has a point; we are definitely divided in so many major ways that it's hard to keep track. And everyone knows a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3: 24). That said, my mind immediately went a step further along this line of thinking to pinpoint the reason we’re so divided in the first place. We can find it within the very same line of the very same pledge. It’s the part that reads:
“One Nation under God.”
Yes. The outrageous under God statement.
It would seem Reyes was not the first to think something was amiss in the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance. The under God part was not even in the original versions of the Pledge. It wasn't officially added until 1954. The idea was strongly propelled by the Knights of Columbus, and has been linked to President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address where he said, "the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom".
So why was it added in 1954? Was it because we realized then that it is way too easy to fall apart without something (Someone) bigger than ourselves to unite us?
Since the under God part was added to the Pledge, it has been under intense scrutiny, and in so many of our 21st century minds, it was the first part to be abandoned. So is it really any wonder, then, when the part that follows has all but disappeared along with it?
As I read Reyes’ article, a familiar image from my childhood kept coming to mind. Growing up in the deep south, I used to love smashing fire ant hills. The fire ants always got all frantic and crazy, scrambling out of the cool dirt into the scorching heat of the day while some little girl watched on, far too pleased with herself.
That’s what our country looks like to me right now. Scrambling fire ants on a damaged hill (but not nearly as fun to watch).
What is a nation of 300 million people at odds with each other, and unable to find any common ground?
I would argue, it’s one that needs God.
When I think about it, fire ants really do have an extremely powerful nature. Part of the reason I was so amazed at smashing their hill was that I knew they could rebuild it in a matter of minutes, and be back to their little ant lives. They get unity. You see it as they're walking around all orderly in their clearly defined lines that reach all the way from their hills to whatever speck of food they’ve managed to discover in some unsuspecting family’s living room (and they always know if there is any speck of food, anywhere).
Fire ants have an incredible ability to organize quickly, become more than what they could be on their own, and work together in unity for the mutual benefit of the whole. It’s just something in their nature... maybe something to do with their ability to communicate amongst each other without words.
For us, I think it's in our ability to look up, and ask for help. That instinct of ours to worship can be very powerful when our worship is focused in the right direction. And this isn't even just about being American. It's about being human in the best possible way.
In today's volatile social climate where we all seem to be at each other's throats diagnosing American's problems, and prescribing remedies from our own personal expertise, I'd happily be the first to admit that our collective issues are so complex that I do not know how to fix them. I don't have the answers. I do not know what we need to do, except this: We need to humble ourselves, repent, and ask for guidance from the One who knows exactly what's wrong, and exactly what we can do about it. It is the only way we stand a chance.
It's not that we need to try to force religion or faith on a free thinking culture. It's just that if we've chosen faith, then we need to genuinely be faithful as we pray, and listen for the unifying voice of the Holy Spirit. We know that if we can count on unity to exist anywhere, it's among those who are humbly listening for the same cues, from the same voice--the voice of their King who speaks Truth in equal parts conviction and compassion.
I know, this is definitely not a revolutionary suggestion I'm offering, to look up and ask for help, but it is one that endures. Maybe just a reminder of why we added God to the Pledge in the first place.