Evangelicals and Their Duplicitous Argument for the Generic God

thomas jefferson

Evangelicals are quite specific when it comes to God. There is ONE God, their God, the triune God revealed in the Christian Bible. All other gods are false gods. While it is increasingly common for Evangelicals to embrace Catholics as fellow Christians, it was not that long ago that most Evangelical churches and pastors believed the Roman Catholic church was the harlot of Revelation 17 and worshipers of a false God.  While it is encouraging to see some Evangelicals consider the thought that Catholics and Mormons might worship the same God as they do, the overwhelmingly majority of Evangelicals believe their God is the one, true God. No other gods need apply.

What I find interesting is how duplicitous Evangelicals can be when it comes to the mentioning of God in the founding documents of the United States, on our money, and in the Pledge of Allegiance. Evangelicals, knowing that the constitution forbids the establishment of a state church, argue before congress and the courts that the founding fathers spoke of a generic god, that the God mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance is no god in particular.  And since the documents, laws, and the like use the word god in a generic sense, they do not violate the establishment clause or run afoul of the separation of church and state.

Yet, they turn right around, once they are away from the halls of congress and the courthouse, and say the use of the word God in our founding documents is in reference to the Christian God. They preach sermons and write books about America being a Christian nation. Evangelical pastors remind parishioners that the Pledge of Allegiance’s God is the Christian God. And to some degree they are right.

Did the founding fathers have a generic god in mind when they spoke and wrote of God? The simple answer is No. Now, they most certainly did not have the modern Evangelical God in mind when they used the word, but they didn’t have Islam, Judaism, or any of the other religions of the world in mind either. Their God was the Christian God. Some of them were orthodox Christians, others were deists, but no one, as far as I know, meant anything other than the Christian God.

Why is it that Evangelicals run from this fact when they speak before congress or the courts? Why do they argue that these mentions of God are generic and not a reference to any specific god? Again, the answer is quite simple. They know admitting that these documents use the word God is a specific sense weakens their argument for their continued use. If the Pledge of Allegiance or In God We Trust on our money reference a non-specific God, then it makes it harder for atheists and secularists to argue that these things are unconstitutional (harder, not impossible)

It’s time for Evangelicals to start telling the truth when they testify before congress or appear before state and federal courts. It’s time they admit that the God of our founding documents and much of America’s history is the Christian God. Once they do this, we can then have a legislative and legal discussion about In God We Trust on our money, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the countless other places the use of the word God implies the Christian God.

As the citizens of the United States increasingly embrace secularism and pluralism, perhaps it is time to throw the Christian God into the dust bin of human history. Whatever we might have been in 1620 or 1776, we are not that now and our government should reflect this. Certainly, Christians are free to be legislators and judges, but their religious beliefs should not play a part when they act on behalf of the people of the United States. It’s time we return to the pre-1954 Pledge of Allegiance:

pledge of allegiance before 1954

Pre-1954 Card with the Pledge of Allegiance

Note

A separate issue is whether there should be ANY pledge at all? Personally, I am against any pledge that requires me to swear fidelity to the state.

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2 Comments

  1. Byroniac

    The pre-1954 pledge is one of my Exhibit A examples of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”. LOL.

    Reply
  2. Daniel Wilcox

    Hey Bruce, Glad to see you posting articles again. Just saw that you are back when I was reading over at Jerry Coyne’s website. Last year I followed your intriguing blogs until you took a leave from writing to concentrate on your medical issues and photography and woodworking. I see that you’ve been writing for months again, so I’ve got plenty of catching up to do:-)

    As for the God of the Founders of the U.S., it’s more of a mixed bag. You said, “Did the founding fathers have a generic god in mind when they spoke and wrote of God? The simple answer is No…Their God was the Christian God.”

    No and yes. While at one point in his life, Jefferson did state he was a Christian (in the sense of admiring Jesus’ life and words), he repeatedly emphasized that he didn’t believe in the God of creedal Trinitarian Christianity. On the contrary he spoke of the “Christian God” as horrendous.

    In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson emphasized the God of the Enlightenment, not the Trinitarian God of Christianity. He wrote of the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” and explained that God endowed us with “certain unalienable Rights.”

    These sort of phrases weren’t, and aren’t, the type of writing which all the central denominations then and now of Christianity use. Roman Catholicism, Reformed, etc. would have spoken about the Bible, Church tradition, the Creeds. Even in the late 19th century, the Pope wrote an encyclical against “liberalism.”

    However, it is true that Jefferson was vague enough that I suppose those Founders who were devout Christians could claim he meant the “Christian God.”

    Sorry to sound so picky, but I was an American literature/history teacher for many years 🙂

    Reply

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