Southern Baptist Albert Mohler is rejoicing in the “good news” that has come down from the 9th Circuit: there is no “religious significance” to paying bills with coins that say, “In God We Trust,” and no “theological or ritualistic impact” to saying, “One Nation, Under God.” He says,
The court has ruled, in effect, that the language of these contested phrases represents what is rightly called “civil religion.” In essence, civil religion is the mass religion that serves the purposes of the state and the culture as a unifying force — a rather bland and diffused religiosity — an innocuous theology with little specificity.
Christians must never confuse civil religion with the real thing. When our fellow citizens recite the pledge, it is not to be taken as a statement of personal faith in God. In that sense, Christians are rightly concerned that we make clear what authentic faith in God requires and means. Confusing civil religion with Christianity is deadly dangerous.
On the other hand, Christians are well aware of the constant danger of idolatry, and no entity rivals a powerful government in terms of the idolatrous temptation. In that sense, it is healthy and good that we employ language that relativizes the power and authority of the state. It is both important and healthy that our motto places trust in God, and not in the state. And the knowledge that the nation exists “under God” is no small matter.
Mainstream Baptist Bruce Prescott, takes exception.
Mohler is obviously obfuscating here. Civil religion is deadly and dangerous. Civil religion fashions a god that is subservient to the State and uses religion to bolster an idolatrous form of nationalism. Mohler clearly perceives that this is what the Supreme Court has done in this ruling, yet he praises it as “good news.”
This decision is not good news, it is bad news for people of genuine faith and conviction. It makes Christians not only complicit but active promoters of a sin for which God warns he will not hold us guiltless.
Only a false prophet eager to accomodate the itching ears of an idolatrous people could find anthing commendable in news that the highest court in the land has officially declared that the name of God has no theological meaning.
The Supreme Court has legalized what the third command of the Ten Commandments expressly prohibits: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”