As we declared our nation’s 238 years of independence, nowadays facing down increasing international challenges alongside domestic ones, watch this inspirational video that touches the heart and soul of what it means to be Americans. In observance of the 206th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln‘s birth on February 12, 1809, enjoy the video, “In God We Still Trust.”
Video courtesy of Diamond Rio. Rappelling Lincoln – Mount Rushmore, circa 1936, Photo courtesy of Old Pics Archive (@oldpicsarchive).
As we walk up the steps to the building, which houses the U.S Supreme Court, we can see near the top of the building a row of the world’s law givers and each one is facing one in the middle, who is facing forward with a full frontal view — it is Moses and he is holding the Ten Commandments!
As we enter the Supreme Court, the two huge oak doors have engraved on each lower portion of each door the Ten Commandments!
As we sit inside the U.S. Supreme Court tribunal, we can see on the wall, right above where the nine Supreme Court justices sit — a display of the Ten Commandments!
There are verses of The Holy Bible etched in stone all over the federal buildings and monuments across Washington, D.C.
Among the many lawyers, jurists, statesmen, and clergy, five doctors signed The Declaration of Independence, written for this “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.“
James Madison, an engineer, and the fourth president, known as “The Father Architect of Our Constitution,” made the following statement:
We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
Every session of Congress begins with a prayer by a paid preacher, whose salary has been paid by the taxpayer, since 1777. Some American traditions and protocols are steadfastly constant and lasting.
Thomas Jefferson worried that the Courts would overstep their authority, and instead of interpreting the law, would begin making law an oligarchy of the rule of the few over the many.
Fifty-two of the fifty-five founders of the Constitution were members of the established orthodox churches in the Colonies.
How then, have we gotten to the point that so much of anything and everything we have done for 238 years in this country is now suddenly, either far too little or far too often, wrong and unconstitutional?
Why is it that our political discourse tells us that America was not founded on Christian and moral values?
Is it time we really take a good look at “The God We Trust” etchings in stone all around US — from the longstanding Lincoln Memorial to the recently dedicated Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument?
The Great Seal of the United States was adopted in 1782, a year before the American Revolutionary War ended. E pluribus unum was included in The Great Seal of the United States and became the unofficial motto of the United States of America.
The American Civil War heightened religious sentiment and in November of 1861 eleven northern Protestant Christian denominations petitioned the United States Treasury Department to add a statement recognizing the “Almighty God in some form in our coinage,” twenty-five years after the last founding father died. A primary reason for this was to declare that God was on the Union side of the Civil War.
In 1956, a hundred and 20 years after the last founding father died, the nation was going through the height of the Cold War, the official motto of the United States became “In God We Trust.” The law was signed by President Eisenhower on July 30, 1956.
What is all the fuss about “In God We Trust“?
Shouldn’t we put forth our values boldly around the world and tell our story courageously across the world, seeing and remembering what this great Country was fundamentally built on for 238 years on July 4, 2014 — encompassing the 102 great ideas inside one of the great books of western civilization — The Holy Bible — and our belief in GOD!
We celebrated the 200th anniversary of The Star Spangled Banner and Our Flag in The Smithsonian on September 16, 2014, and our media barely pays attention, much less yield a cursory footnote, about our nation’s milestone in its march to America’s Tercentennial.
We have multiple war conflicts we are engaged in abroad in a world coming apart at the seams. We are shocked by weekly pictures of our citizens and allied citizenry having their heads lopped off, streaming across our nightly news at the dinner table.
Yet, in our allies’ search for our foreign policy doctrine going forward beyond “Hard Power, Soft Power,” full comprehension or complete understanding by all is futile. The last foreign policy doctrines we can recall are the Clintonian “Indispensable Nation” or the Bushian “Preemptive Strike.”
We have infectious diseases, like the once-eradicated Measles or the slow-roll pandemic Ebola, entering our shores and landing right next door. Yet, we cannot establish a coherent national health safety initiative and common-sense quarantine policy. What sane “nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” allows infectious diseases inside its borders to threaten its people?
We have urban centers run by absentee landlords with slumlord mentalities. Once great cities of our nation are crippled with crumbling infrastructures, crushed under bankruptcy and unemployment, and riddled with shootings, crimes, riots and mayhem with decreasing trust in law enforcement and justice.
We have governments reporting an improving economy that “nobody really feels” inside their wallets and pocketbooks, says former President Bill Clinton last November on the campaign trail in Arkansas.
We have a stock market soaring for the investment class. Yet, our bank accounts yield negative returns on negative interest for the growing underclass.
We have an extraordinary jobs report well below 6 percent unemployment. On February 10, 2015, the United States Labor Department announced the highest number of job openings at five million are available across all labor sectors of the nation in sixteen years. However, we still cannot find enough good full-time work with 93 million folks out of work, and all the new jobs are part-time work. When did we become a part-time working nation for the money we spend?
Most of all, the United States Secret Service is now more political upon the move from its historical position under the Secretary of the Treasury to its current position under the Secretary of Homeland Security right after 9-11.
By statue, the United States Secret Service is indeed allowed a thousand lapses in their security. This is mainly because protecting the President of the United States is an imperfect, highly ambiguous process, involving uncertain and dangerous situations and risky judgement calls.
Six fence jumpers at The White House in 2014 begs the question what is going on with the protection of the White House and the President of the United States. One of the 2014 fence jumpers actually made it as far as the White House Green Room. The latest intruder made it into the White House East Room.
The United States Secret Service stands for one thing: the security of the President of the United States – our national treasure. The Secret Service’s several centuries of history rests in the soundness of the “Guns and Money” in its charge of protecting The White House.
Why is the United States Secret Service now housed inside the Department of Homeland Security, where the Transportation Security Administration resides? These are two different security mandates here folks!
At no time in our history, values and storytelling to the rest of the world about America, do we need more fundamental trust in protecting our seven institutions – families, churches, schools, universities, governments, corporations, and philanthropies.
It is said that 86% of Americans believe in God. Therefore, it is very hard to understand why there is such a fuss about having the Ten Commandments on display inside our institutions we preserve, or ‘In God We Trust’ on our money we spend, and having God in our Pledge of Allegiance to our flag we promise, “And this be our motto: “In God is our trust” in the last fourth verse of the Star Spangled Banner we sing.
In 1952 President Truman established one day a year as a “National Day of Prayer.”
In 1988 President Reagan designated the First Thursday in May of each year as a “National Day of Prayer.”
In June 2007 (then) presidential candidate Barack Obama declared that the United States of America was no longer a Christian nation.
In 2009 President Obama canceled the 21st annual National Day of Prayer ceremony at the White House under the pretext or context of “not wanting to offend anyone.” In 2010 President Obama immediately reinstated and then spoke at the 22th annual National Day of Prayer ceremony at the White House.
In 2015 President Obama “conveyed a “teachable moment” at the 27th annual National Day of Prayer breakfast, now a widely distributed video except of his live speech, and as Yahoo! News opined on Tuesday, February 10, 2015,
we had better not “get on our high horse,” Obama scolded, about riding across any deserts to destroy ISIS, but we should “remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” As if that were not enough, to the list of sinful deeds and intentions of Christianity he added that “slavery and Jim Crow … all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
According to a recent New York Times report on the speech, the consensus of the historians is the president did not get some of the facts of his ‘teachable moment’ tracing Christianity back to the 11th century historically correct. Albeit, this president is highly skilled in his use of words and extremely articulate and exceptionally measured in how he uses the meaning of his words.
Yahoo! News’ Georgie Anne Geyer, who has been a foreign correspondent and commentator on international affairs for more than 40 years, concludes, “President Obama obviously did not intend his remarks to harm Christians anywhere, but only to face the world and history with an open mind. However, at a time like this, when many Muslims in the Middle East resent American troops, it is simply not the better part of wisdom to underline their perceptions and prejudices.”
When did we begin in our country parsing out God and common-sense meaning, among so many or so little differences among us, under the pretext or context of “not wanting to offend anyone,” while politically under-correcting or over-correcting ourselves either towards or away from In God We Still Trust, which is all around US?
In his Stoplight® commentary, Stuart Shepard takes us along for a walk in the nation’s capital.
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
February 05, 2015
Remarks by the President at National Prayer Breakfast
9:13 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Well, good morning. Giving all praise and honor to God. It is wonderful to be back with you here. I want to thank our co-chairs, Bob and Roger. These two don’t always agree in the Senate, but in coming together and uniting us all in prayer, they embody the spirit of our gathering today.
I also want to thank everybody who helped organize this breakfast. It’s wonderful to see so many friends and faith leaders and dignitaries. And Michelle and I are truly honored to be joining you here today.
I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama — who is a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion, who inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings. (Applause.) I’ve been pleased to welcome him to the White House on many occasions, and we’re grateful that he’s able to join us here today. (Applause.)
There aren’t that many occasions that bring His Holiness under the same roof as NASCAR. (Laughter.) This may be the first. (Laughter.) But God works in mysterious ways. (Laughter.) And so I want to thank Darrell for that wonderful presentation. Darrell knows that when you’re going 200 miles an hour, a little prayer cannot hurt. (Laughter.) I suspect that more than once, Darrell has had the same thought as many of us have in our own lives — Jesus, take the wheel. (Laughter.) Although I hope that you kept your hands on the wheel when you were thinking that. (Laughter.)
He and I obviously share something in having married up. And we are so grateful to Stevie for the incredible work that they’ve done together to build a ministry where the fastest drivers can slow down a little bit, and spend some time in prayer and reflection and thanks. And we certainly want to wish Darrell a happy birthday. (Applause.) Happy birthday.
I will note, though, Darrell, when you were reading that list of things folks were saying about you, I was thinking, well, you’re a piker. I mean, that — (Laughter.) I mean, if you really want a list, come talk to me. (Laughter.) Because that ain’t nothing. (Laughter.) That’s the best they can do in NASCAR? (Laughter.)
Slowing down and pausing for fellowship and prayer — that’s what this breakfast is about. I think it’s fair to say Washington moves a lot slower than NASCAR. Certainly my agenda does sometimes. (Laughter.) But still, it’s easier to get caught up in the rush of our lives, and in the political back-and-forth that can take over this city. We get sidetracked with distractions, large and small. We can’t go 10 minutes without checking our smartphones — and for my staff, that’s every 10 seconds. And so for 63 years, this prayer tradition has brought us together, giving us the opportunity to come together in humility before the Almighty and to be reminded of what it is that we share as children of God.
And certainly for me, this is always a chance to reflect on my own faith journey. Many times as President, I’ve been reminded of a line of prayer that Eleanor Roosevelt was fond of. She said, “Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength.” Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength. I’ve wondered at times if maybe God was answering that prayer a little too literally. But no matter the challenge, He has been there for all of us. He’s certainly strengthened me “with the power through his Spirit,” as I’ve sought His guidance not just in my own life but in the life of our nation.
Now, over the last few months, we’ve seen a number of challenges — certainly over the last six years. But part of what I want to touch on today is the degree to which we’ve seen professions of faith used both as an instrument of great good, but also twisted and misused in the name of evil.
As we speak, around the world, we see faith inspiring people to lift up one another — to feed the hungry and care for the poor, and comfort the afflicted and make peace where there is strife. We heard the good work that Sister has done in Philadelphia, and the incredible work that Dr. Brantly and his colleagues have done. We see faith driving us to do right.
But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.
We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.
So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?
Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. Michelle and I returned from India — an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity — but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs — acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.
So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try. And in this mission, I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe.
And, first, we should start with some basic humility. I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt — not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.
Our job is not to ask that God respond to our notion of truth — our job is to be true to Him, His word, and His commandments. And we should assume humbly that we’re confused and don’t always know what we’re doing and we’re staggering and stumbling towards Him, and have some humility in that process. And that means we have to speak up against those who would misuse His name to justify oppression, or violence, or hatred with that fierce certainty. No God condones terror. No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives, or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number.
And so, as people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends. And here at home and around the world, we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom — freedom of religion — the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.
There’s wisdom in our founders writing in those documents that help found this nation the notion of freedom of religion, because they understood the need for humility. They also understood the need to uphold freedom of speech, that there was a connection between freedom of speech and freedom of religion. For to infringe on one right under the pretext of protecting another is a betrayal of both.
But part of humility is also recognizing in modern, complicated, diverse societies, the functioning of these rights, the concern for the protection of these rights calls for each of us to exercise civility and restraint and judgment. And if, in fact, we defend the legal right of a person to insult another’s religion, we’re equally obligated to use our free speech to condemn such insults — (applause) — and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities who are the targets of such attacks. Just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t question those who would insult others in the name of free speech. Because we know that our nations are stronger when people of all faiths feel that they are welcome, that they, too, are full and equal members of our countries.
So humility I think is needed. And the second thing we need is to uphold the distinction between our faith and our governments. Between church and between state. The United States is one of the most religious countries in the world — far more religious than most Western developed countries. And one of the reasons is that our founders wisely embraced the separation of church and state. Our government does not sponsor a religion, nor does it pressure anyone to practice a particular faith, or any faith at all. And the result is a culture where people of all backgrounds and beliefs can freely and proudly worship, without fear, or coercion — so that when you listen to Darrell talk about his faith journey you know it’s real. You know he’s not saying it because it helps him advance, or because somebody told him to. It’s from the heart.
That’s not the case in theocracies that restrict people’s choice of faith. It’s not the case in authoritarian governments that elevate an individual leader or a political party above the people, or in some cases, above the concept of God Himself. So the freedom of religion is a value we will continue to protect here at home and stand up for around the world, and is one that we guard vigilantly here in the United States.
Last year, we joined together to pray for the release of Christian missionary Kenneth Bae, held in North Korea for two years. And today, we give thanks that Kenneth is finally back where he belongs — home, with his family. (Applause.)
Last year, we prayed together for Pastor Saeed Abedini, detained in Iran since 2012. And I was recently in Boise, Idaho, and had the opportunity to meet with Pastor Abedini’s beautiful wife and wonderful children and to convey to them that our country has not forgotten brother Saeed and that we’re doing everything we can to bring him home. (Applause.) And then, I received an extraordinary letter from Pastor Abedini. And in it, he describes his captivity, and expressed his gratitude for my visit with his family, and thanked us all for standing in solidarity with him during his captivity.
And Pastor Abedini wrote, “Nothing is more valuable to the Body of Christ than to see how the Lord is in control, and moves ahead of countries and leadership through united prayer.” And he closed his letter by describing himself as “prisoner for Christ, who is proud to be part of this great nation of the United States of America that cares for religious freedom around the world.” (Applause.)
We’re going to keep up this work — for Pastor Abedini and all those around the world who are unjustly held or persecuted because of their faith. And we’re grateful to our new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Rabbi David Saperstein — who has hit the ground running, and is heading to Iraq in a few days to help religious communities there address some of those challenges. Where’s David? I know he’s here somewhere. Thank you, David, for the great work you’re doing. (Applause.)
Humility; a suspicion of government getting between us and our faiths, or trying to dictate our faiths, or elevate one faith over another. And, finally, let’s remember that if there is one law that we can all be most certain of that seems to bind people of all faiths, and people who are still finding their way towards faith but have a sense of ethics and morality in them — that one law, that Golden Rule that we should treat one another as we wish to be treated. The Torah says “Love thy neighbor as yourself.” In Islam, there is a Hadith that states: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” The Holy Bible tells us to “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Put on love.
Whatever our beliefs, whatever our traditions, we must seek to be instruments of peace, and bringing light where there is darkness, and sowing love where there is hatred. And this is the loving message of His Holiness, Pope Francis. And like so many people around the world, I’ve been touched by his call to relieve suffering, and to show justice and mercy and compassion to the most vulnerable; to walk with The Lord and ask “Who am I to judge?” He challenges us to press on in what he calls our “march of living hope.” And like millions of Americans, I am very much looking forward to welcoming Pope Francis to the United States later this year. (Applause.)
His Holiness expresses that basic law: Treat thy neighbor as yourself. The Dalai Lama — anybody who’s had an opportunity to be with him senses that same spirit. Kent Brantly expresses that same spirit. Kent was with Samaritan’s Purse, treating Ebola patients in Liberia, when he contracted the virus himself. And with world-class medical care and a deep reliance on faith — with God’s help, Kent survived. (Applause.)
And then by donating his plasma, he helped others survive as well. And he continues to advocate for a global response in West Africa, reminding us that “our efforts needs to be on loving the people there.” And I could not have been prouder to welcome Kent and his wonderful wife Amber to the Oval Office. We are blessed to have him here today — because he reminds us of what it means to really “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Not just words, but deeds.
Each of us has a role in fulfilling our common, greater purpose — not merely to seek high position, but to plumb greater depths so that we may find the strength to love more fully. And this is perhaps our greatest challenge — to see our own reflection in each other; to be our brother’s keepers and sister’s keepers, and to keep faith with one another. As children of God, let’s make that our work, together.
As children of God, let’s work to end injustice — injustice of poverty and hunger. No one should ever suffer from such want amidst such plenty. As children of God, let’s work to eliminate the scourge of homelessness, because, as Sister Mary says, “None of us are home until all of us are home.” None of us are home until all of us are home.
As children of God, let’s stand up for the dignity and value of every woman, and man, and child, because we are all equal in His eyes, and work to send the scourge and the sin of modern-day slavery and human trafficking, and “set the oppressed free.” (Applause.)
If we are properly humble, if we drop to our knees on occasion, we will acknowledge that we never fully know God’s purpose. We can never fully fathom His amazing grace. “We see through a glass, darkly” — grappling with the expanse of His awesome love. But even with our limits, we can heed that which is required: To do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.
I pray that we will. And as we journey together on this “march of living hope,” I pray that, in His name, we will run and not be weary, and walk and not be faint, and we’ll heed those words and “put on love.”
May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may He bless this precious country that we love.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
9:37 A.M. EST
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