So Help Me God
In January 2009, Barack Obama put his right hand on a Bible and completed a solemn oath by calling on the Creator of the universe for help. He is currently in full campaign mode for the privilege of serving the American people for another four-year term—in this he is joined by a full slate of other wannabe presidents.
Whoever attains the Oval Office in the 2012 election will strictly adhere to tradition and expectations. In January 2013, he or she will stand in front of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and make the same “So help me God” pledge.
It is indeed a strange dichotomy. We have dismissed moral truth because it has a way of chiseling away the nobility of humanism, yet we invite God, the source of moral truth, to consecrate the crowning achievement of our political process.
Or consider the fact that the courts routinely rule against anything even remotely connected to God, yet the federal judicial oath of office concludes with an unrepentant appeal for Divine assistance: “I, Jane Whoever, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as Judge under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”
These two examples of institutionalized religiosity makes it endlessly clear that the supposed wall of separation between Church and State isn’t carved in stone—it’s messy and has some self-serving interpretations. As a nation we are blatantly and officially religious when it suits our purpose. We play linguistic games to placate the devotion to relativism, and then beseech God for his favor in the Public Square on our terms, thank you very much.
This societal schizophrenia is reflective of how individuals approach faith. We want all the trappings of the sacred without any of the obedience. We compartmentalize religious expression and in doing so, we demand that God remain inside a box of our making.
A blend of feel-good creeds places top priority on personal autonomy and the pursuit of happiness—diversity of belief is its primary doctrine. Its priests are politicians; its prophets are self-help talk show hosts; its wisdom literature is encapsulated in thirty-second celebrity sound-bites; its shrines are sports venues where the faithful gather beneath flags and bunting; its liturgy is the ceremonial invocation of God Bless America by various entertainers.
We have come to depend on platitudes encased within empty promises. No attention is paid to personal responsibility or the judgment of eternity. We are consumed with the here and now—pride in self-determination dominates our mindset. It is always about us. It’s never about any intrinsic code of ethics.
Congress legislates with a self-aggrandizing sense of importance as though it actually possess the authority to regulate truth. Having systematically deconstructed the Divine, we routinely summon God at our convenience, as though he were the Robin Williams-voiced Genie in the animated movie, Aladdin.
We pay lip service to God, but in all honesty, any inclination to honor him frequently weakens and wilts. Though we are in constant need of his tender care, we often only acknowledge our dependence on him when situations run from bad to worse. We really do not want to have anything to do with a holy God who requires us “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly” with him.
At certain signposts along the way we give a nod to our need for a Supreme Being’s approval. We expect God’s blessing when we are born; we order his blessing when we come of age; we assume his blessing when we marry; we presume his blessing on our children; we claim his blessing when we die.
Between those highpoints we’re quite happy not to be bothered by God’s pesky requirements to worship and glorify him with our lives. It is the absolute extreme of arrogance for us to reduce the Creator to a celestial waiter at our beck and call, even if we occasionally do leave large tips in the collection plate.
Awe & Reverence
Contrary to the continual whine of our self-absorbed perspective, we are not at the main table or on center stage for this infinite drama. The story of history is God’s story of redemption. We are part of the story, but it is most definitely God’s story. All of life on this planet is about God; it is not about us.
Our capacity for understanding the supernatural is limited—our finite grasp on what occurs in the heavenlies comes with the territory of being human. God’s designed plans are far greater than we can possibly fathom.
Through the apparent random chances and within all the meaningless minutia of our lives, God is busy working out his eternal purposes in history. What he is actively engaged in to bring all things to their appointed consummation in Christ is utterly beyond our ability to comprehend.
With that worldview in mind, doesn’t it make sense for us to do more than just push God to the fringe? We go through intense motions to keep God at arm’s length, but given his everlasting love, should we not invite him to be a part of every moment he allows us? Instead of our casual dismissal of the transcendent dimension of our lives, we should recognize that relying on God is an option we jettison at our own peril.
Our intellectual effort to capture and tame God has detrimental consequences. The progressive apathy of Christianity has banished Scriptural principles in the name of political-correctness, creating an entity that a brilliant first-century thinker referred to as “having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
Token adherence to ritual or ceremony doesn’t quite cut it. Faith meets reality when the pretensions of symbolic piety are given the heave-ho and replaced by authentic awe and reverence.
Our Creator loves us. He desires to be in a living relationship with us; he desires that we respond to him with love and devotion. His mandates are set in place to provide order and structure in our lives.
From the beginning we have preferred to go our own way and do our own thing. The streak of rebellion in the human race is miles wide and just as deep. Yet, no matter our course of action or attitude, he is always prepared to embrace us in arms of never-ending grace and mercy.
It is self-evident that over the years America has placed its faith in the deceptive security and sweet blessings of liberty. We have mistaken economic prosperity as Divine approval of all that America is and does. When the Stock Market repeatedly nosedives and widespread unemployment spreads across the country, instead of bowing before a just and sovereign God, we demand an explanation for why he allowed our lifestyle to be disrupted. We turn to idolatry for comfort, but gods created in our image will fail us.
Faith deserves a proven resting-place. Rather than the nameless, faceless, shape-shifting deity fashioned by human minds, the focus of our faith should be the Creator of life, the Giver of blessings, the Maker of rainbows, the Rock of our salvation—the One who is our timeless hope of glory.
Jesus of Nazareth is our ultimate example. For him there was no separation or difference between the secular and sacred. All of life was a matter of where God wanted him and what God wanted him to be doing. We ought to emulate his reliance on our Heavenly Father.
For that to begin, we must confess our complete dependence on God for everything as we seek to deepen intimacy with him by living prayerfully. “So help me God” cannot be reduced to a mere tagline or magic incantation; it must be our desperate plea for the grace to live in a manner that genuinely esteems him.
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
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