The state of Tennessee is in the headlines this week for a piece of legislation that has passed. When the governor signs the bill, as he is expected to do, it will become law that all schools in the state “prominently” display the motto, In God We Trust, for all students to see. This really comes as no surprise. Wherever there is a Republican majority at work in government, there is a not-so-veiled attempt to push a Christian agenda into public schools, as I have written about before. The constitutionality of such a law is debatable, although since In God We Trust has been a national motto since 1956, I really don’t anticipate any serious challenge to this law. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see many other states–especially red ones–follow suit. In fact, I’m not even particularly troubled by this law. I am certainly troubled by the potential that it could be just the beginning of more intrusive steps to follow, but this particular step isn’t that big a deal. After all, we have In God We Trust on our currency and that is much more a part of all of our every day lives than having it displayed on a sign in a public school. While I understand that some folks might be offended by the motto, it doesn’t offend me, personally, since I am a Christian. But this story has gotten me to thinking about the motto in broader terms. Without a doubt, this law was sponsored and driven by conservative evangelical Christians. They claim it is a fundamental principal of their lives and of our nation as a whole. Is that true? Are conservative evangelicals truly showing trust in God, or are they just hiding behind this motto as they push a political agenda? Let’s examine this question, shall we?
The nation’s eyes have been on the young generation in recent weeks. A very visible side effect of the recent school shootings has been that an entire generation of young Americans have become politically aware and they are organizing and mobilizing. Planned school walk outs, 17 minutes in length, one minute for each person killed in the Florida school shooting, drew much national media attention. Conservatives and the NRA were quick to try to demonize the young protesters by labeling them as naive, brainwashed Tide Pod eaters. That only seemed to steel the resolve of the youngsters. This weekend saw the March for Our Lives protests in most major cities around the nation. Millions participated in what, by some reports, could have been one of the largest single days of demonstration in the nation’s history. Once again, conservatives took to social media to try to attack the protesters. I saw one meme that actually suggested that those young protesters, flexing their American muscles for the first time, were symbolically tearing up the Constitution. That meme showed an incredible level of ignorance about the Constitution.
The implication of that ridiculous meme is that the protesters are trying to get rid of the 2nd Amendment–that is simply not the case, more on that in a moment–but, in making that preposterous assertion, it completely obliterates the 1st Amendment–those kids’ rights to free speech, peaceful assembly and petition. I was never more offended by any meme than that one and I promptly blocked the person who shared it. I don’t have room in my life for that level of ignorance. But the whole gun control debate gets to the core of my question–are conservative evangelicals truly showing trust in God, or are they hiding behind a motto as they push a political agenda?
This paranoid assumption that any call for sensible measures to better control guns is tantamount to abolishing the 2nd Amendment is nothing more than NRA propaganda. That organization has indoctrinated so many gun owners to fear giving even one inch in the debate. The fact is, the overwhelming majority of Americans–yes, even those young Americans who protested in our city streets this weekend–support reasonable and responsible gun ownership rights. The 2nd Amendment isn’t in jeopardy. I only wish I was as confident in the health of the 1st Amendment.
How soon we forget that we actually had a law banning assault rifles for a decade in recent memory. Passed in 1994 during the Clinton administration, the assault weapons ban was allowed to expire in 2004 under George Bush. No law is perfectly effective but, after the ban was lifted in 2004, mass shootings increased dramatically.
It strikes me as disingenuous that the same people who are pushing the message In God We Trust are so desperately fighting against sensible gun legislation. In the same breath that they exclaim they trust God, they are insisting that they have the right to own military style AR 15 rifles. They aren’t for hunting, they say, they are to fight off tyranny. So, conservative evangelical, you trust God, but you’re going to need that assault rifle to fend off the government? What are you really saying?
These same conservative evangelicals post memes that imply that banning certain guns isn’t the answer. They deflect the blame to society. They claim the reason school shootings happen is that we have locked God out of public schools. How small and weak is your God that he could be locked out of a school? My God comes with me into a public school 185 days a year. Nobody can lock him out because he walks right in with me–and with many other teachers and hundreds of students. Yet, you imply that the God you say you trust isn’t allowed in my school? What blasphemy! Who is trusting what now?
So, conservative evangelical, if you ask me, here is the bottom line. God gave us free will. We are all free to choose to believe what we want. By the way, that Constitution that you are always waving around gives us the very same free will. No amount of legislation is going to force anyone to believe the way you want them to believe.
If it truly is in God you trust, you might as well start accepting that fact.
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