I don’t recall how it began, but yesterday I was thinking about that phrase in our Pledge of Allegiance: “…under God…” Apparently there are some people who oppose it, if social media posts can be trusted. Frankly, I don’t remember any comments to that effect. What I do remember is a lot of social media posts defending it in ways that make it seem there is a concerted, organized attack on it.
Anyway, it occurred to me that the implication is strong, if not intended, that being “one nation under God” is what makes us “indivisible.” The two concepts at least are related; therefore, what can be concluded from the obvious: that the United States a is not, in fact, one nation indivisible—under God or otherwise? We are a divided nation, a “nation coming apart at the seams, a nation in which each tribe has its own narrative and the narratives are generally resentment narratives."
I expect the knee-jerk response is, “I and my tribe are under God. If everyone would just be like us, we’d be indivisible!” It may describe “undivided;” however, it does not describe “united”, as in States of America. It describes uniformity. There’s a difference. Uniformity is related much more closely to satisfaction and complacency than to growth and progress.
If we truly desire to be indivisible as a nation, why aren’t we engaging in efforts toward reconciliation and unity, instead of raging at each other over the slightest differences of opinion.
Some things are clear: first, we’ll never agree about what “under God” means. One source identifies 35 Protestant Denominations in the USA, most of them sub-divided into numerous branches and schisms. The founders of the denomination I serve envisioned a Christian coop through which could be realized their proposition “That the Church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one…” Today their “Restoration Movement” to unite all Christendom is splintered into three distinct (and often antagonistic) denominations.
Christian history is a chronicle of uninterrupted human division. Furthermore, in this land of religious freedom, the number of Protestant Denominations doesn’t begin to account for the variety of ways in which deity is perceived and worshiped.
So, how do all those denominations and schisms emerge? Some charismatic person becomes convinced that he or she has a unique and unerring insight into God’s will and intention and convinces a group of followers to break away with him or her. The power behind most schisms is the magnetic persuasiveness of the founder who has a splinter of truth, rather than the presence and leading of the Spirit of God in whom alone dwells absolute truth. [The Protestant Reformation, perceived by Protestants (sic) as a valid response to corrupt leadership in the Mother Church, notwithstanding. In most cases I expect every schism represents itself as “restoring true faith;” but that’s another blog.]
We can’t agree on who God is or how we are to relate to God; nor can we agree on what it means to be God’s people. Therefore, we render the term, “under God,” essentially meaningless.
A second clear reality is that our current strategy of insulting and vilifying and demonizing everyone who disagrees with us cannot possibly be considered a faithful embodiment of the presence of God under whom we claim to be “indivisible”. Such interpersonal animosity has not produced—nor will it ever produce—indivisibility; nor has it created—or will it ever create—a climate in which an indivisible nation can thrive or even emerge.
Finally, the familiar tactic of demanding conformity to our own ideology has been equally unproductive in affecting any kind of indivisibility. I’ve said before: my favorite definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting a different result.
The greatest irony of all is that out of the vast variety of Christian doctrinal communities, the consensus message perceived by a “spiritually yearning, institutionally pissed off public” is that we really don’t believe what we claim to believe. We are perceived as hypocrites.
We wave the “Grace” flag, as if we really believe it: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NRSV). Most of us who grew up in the church can sing “Amazing Grace” from memory.
But an overwhelming number of professing Christians don’t believe it, if their witness by word and deed is accurate. What too many professing Christians’ lives testify—and the consensus stereotype by which that spiritually disillusioned public judges us all—is that we are saved by affirming correct doctrine—being “right”--and excluding everyone who doesn't affirm our correct doctrine.
I’m just not willing to bet my eternal destiny on the correctness of doctrine, knowing full well that my perception is limited by the clay of which I am made. Instead, I’ll place my trust in the One who alone is my doctrine, and I’ll confess in the words of St. Paul:
For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:9-13 NRSV)
And therein lies what I believe is the only credible doorway through which we may finally live out our pledge to become an “indivisible” nation: “The greatest of these is love.”
We’ll never agree. On much of anything. But, in love, we can seek to understand each other and to embrace our differences, not necessarily as error, but as partial truth. And in that effort to transcend our antagonistic obsession with uniformity, I suspect we’ll discover a more nearly complete indivisibility.
That’s the way I see it through the Flawed Glass that is my world view.
Together in the Walk,
 David Brooks, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/the-case-for-reparations/ar-BBUvAS7?ocid=spartandhp&fbclid=IwAR3MQXOlmusWGxquJ3ZCXXYo1_LmLkeHISpNNVrkfC1OmNJdTShsVbRSwpM
 Thomas Campbell, Declaration and Address. https://stevekinnard.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/church-history-14-thomas-campbells-declaration-and-address/
 My crude adaptation of a phrase coined by Thomas G. Bandy in Christian Chaos, et. al.