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“In God We Trust”

The motto for our nation boldly states, “In God we trust,”
Which is, of course, a matter for each person to decide.
We can’t assume such faith is held by all, nor is it just
To claim it as prerequisite for patriotic pride.

But even so, the words, “In God we trust,” make one thing clear:
That when we put our trust in something else, we will have erred.
For party politics will always let us down, I fear,
Regardless of which side we’re on or promises we’ve heard.

For truth be told it will be neither liberty nor law,
The Constitution, Bill of Rights, nor some new civil war—
Where goodness triumphs at the last by means of tooth and claw—
That lead us to the Promised Land like some new Christmas star.

Though Providence has proven true both time and time again
(Despite our human foolishness) we mustn’t think that we
Who dare presume we’re on God’s side are somehow free from sin;
For even when we do what’s right, it’s God who makes us free.

For by the hand of God are life and liberty endowed
And Presidents and Kings who dare pretend they have the powers
To give or take such things away have blasphemed God and bowed
Before a lie that falsely claims to own that which is ours.

I do believe that God’s at work directing history,
By setting limits to the time-bound power that evil wields.
The phrase, “In God we trust” serves as a hint to help us see
That in the end it will be God to whom that evil yields.

Some trust in horses, others trust in chariots and might,
While others trust themselves, as like to Adam at the Fall.
But as for us: “In God we trust!” For such is meet and right.
For were it not for God we’d have no liberty at all.

So let us stand against all those whose power feigns full sway,
For those who claim to give us “rights” can take those rights away.

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James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and published six novels, one collection of short stories, and three collections of poetry including Mostly Sonnets, all with Dunecrest Press. His poems have been published nationally and internationally in The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) Review, California Quarterly, Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online, Better than Starbucks, WestWard Quarterly, Society of Classical Poets, and The Chained Muse.


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12 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    This was very succinct and to the point, James. The only jarring note is that you felt the people needed to be reminded. But maybe we do need to be.

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Never hurts, C.B., especially when the reminder is as clear-eyed as this.
      Thanks, James.

      Reply
  2. Cynthia Erlandson

    How true and well-stated — “were it not for God we’d have no liberty at all.”

    Reply
  3. Adam Wasem

    A finely reasoned disquisition, and so well done technically, James. What the media, academic, and political establishment today all endlessly labor to hide is that the founding fathers were Christians to a man, and virtually everything they did, in establishing the United States, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, was designed to bind and dilute and downplay the power of government as much as humanly possible, to the point that they have to large parts of the ignorant population poisoned such concepts as the right to bear arms, states’ rights, even the Bill of Rights and the Constitution itself.

    Indeed, the founders only replaced the monarchy with another government because, as Madison observed, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” with its implicit recognition that, short of the second coming, fallen humans would always require some form of government to avoid falling into barbarism. Thanks for shining a spotlight again on what the founders originally intended, by acknowleding that we were endowed with inalienable rights by our Creator, and that government’s and the law’s only justifiable function was to act as safeguard of those rights.

    Reply
  4. Michael Pietrack

    The second-to-last stanza reminded me of Psalm 20:7, 33:17, and Isaiah 31:1. Trusting in chariots, etc. The end of the verses at Psalm 20:7 and Isaiah 31:1 shows us where we really need to place our trust. And trust is shown through our actions. Faith/Trust/Love appear to be nouns, but they are verbs.

    This made me think that “In God we Trust” is on our money, but if our money stated “In Money we Trust” it would be more apropos. 2 Timothy 3:2

    Thanks for the thought-provoking poem.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      You are very welcome, Michael. And the biblical references were, of course, intentional and I liked your snarky aside re 2 Timothy.

      Reply
  5. Cheryl Corey

    Your poem prompted me to do a little research on Wikipedia. Evidently the dollar went through many changes over the years, and “In God We Trust” was not adopted as the motto until a 1956 act of Congress.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      That is correct. It is a modern accretion just like the Pledge of Allegiance, which evolved from 1892 to its present form in 1954. Our motto is not a foundational document by any means and I would not be surprised if it were someday rescinded. Even so, it is our motto at this time and so in my poem I reflected on what it might mean in the context of the source of our unalienable rights (“our Creator”) as found in the Declaration of Independence. Note that I also affirmed in my first stanza that trust in God is not (and should not be) a prerequisite to being an American citizen or being a patriot. I’m glad you did your research. It is good to know these things.

      Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      A little further research shows this line from verse 4 of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key:

      “And this be our motto–‘In God Is Our Trust.'”

      The United States armed forces (representing officialdom) and most Americans employed “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem from that time onward. But for legal sticklers, it was in 1916 that President Herbert Hoover signed a declaration confirming the popular and official usage. Thus, popular and official usage was singing “In God We Trust” and calling it our motto for 140 years before the US Congress and President Eisenhower accepted the fact in a formal manner. This is what we call an old tradition, not a modern accretion. Now for the question of the day: is July 4th our national holiday by law or by custom?

      Reply
      • Margaret Coats

        Please excuse me for the incomplete comment above. It should say that in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson made “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem by executive order, and in 1931 Congress passed a law confirming this, which was signed by President Herbert Hoover. And all this history on the national anthem has great relevance to the national motto written into it by a poet during the War of 1812!

  6. Margaret Coats

    Well done poem on the national motto, with the necessary disclaimers. But as you point out, the issue is really whether we trust God, or put our faith in something not fully trustworthy.

    Reply

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