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Summary: The recent "under God" court decision is inconsequential. Far better to pledge allegiance to a God who does not need publicity and lip service, but who points us to acts of justice, liberation, and witness.

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In every age there are those who feel they need to help God

out of hiding. God, it seems, is never without public relations

agents, who want to help Him get His name out. They have

their own reasons – some of them well-intentioned, and

some of them selfish – but the truth is that God does not

really need help getting noticed. Publicity is not His thing;

and, in fact, there are times when it seems God actually

prefers to hide. The prophet said it some twenty-eight

centuries ago, “Truly, you are a God who hides himself.” But

some of us seem to feel we have to bring God out of the

closet.

Some of the people who write about church growth, for

instance, say that no church will succeed unless it is in a

prominent location. If you are not on a main street, you won’t

make it! You have to put your church building in a place that

helps God out of hiding! I guess that is what motivated the

many churches that line Sixteenth Street; a prominent

location that symbolically links to the White House and to the

seat of power. They didn’t want God to hide.

In every age there have are those who feel they need to help

God out of hiding, to get His name in laws and on buildings

and out in the marketplace. In the year 312, Constantine,

after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, felt that Christ had

helped him win the battle that made him the undisputed ruler

of the entire Roman Empire. And so Constantine made

Christianity the only legal religion. Astonishing – what had

been a persecuted faith only a few years before was now not

only legal, but was the only legal way. Constantine brought

God out of hiding. Constantine put God at the very center of

public life. And when he did so, he ruined Christianity! He

spoiled spirituality! He violated the very essence of what it

means to be a Christian.

Before Constantine, to be a Christian meant that you might

have to hide, you might have to practice your faith in secret,

and you might even lose your life for Christ. But those early

Christians burned with a passion for Christ! They really felt

their faith. They had to pay a price for it, but they felt it

deeply and lived it day by day. That was before Constantine.

After Constantine, to be a Christian meant you were a

Roman, so, ho-hum, you got baptized, you were a church

member, no big deal. There was no danger in serving

Christ, and so there was no challenge either. Constantine

made citizenship and church membership one and the same

thing, and neither was helped. Both were diminished. For

centuries we have paid the price of a weakened church and

a careless faith – just look at the state churches of Europe

today and you will see what I mean. Great cathedrals, empty

of worshipers. Governments which nod to God but callously

ignore God’s ways. It does not do anybody any good to help

God out of hiding. God often prefers to do His work in the

shadows.

The founders of the American nation knew that. Instinctively

they recognized that they did not need to help God with a

publicity campaign. These men understood that when the

state leaves the church alone, both state and church do best.

I take as almost inspired those words of the First

Amendment, which I have memorized as if they were the

very words of Scripture, “Congress shall make no law

respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the

free exercise thereof.” Church and state should stay clear of

one another.

So here we are on the heels of a decision by the Ninth

Circuit Court of Appeals, to the effect that it is

unconstitutional for children to be forced into saying the

Pledge of Allegiance to the flag because of the clause that

affirms that this nation is “under God”. The court held that it

was unfair and sectarian. Those who wished to defend the

phrase argued – are you ready for this? – that the phrase

has no specific religious content! They said that it should be

allowed because it refers to God in a general way and is not

intended to support any particular faith at all! Did you catch

that – the phrase “under God” has no specific religious

content!

You know, I cannot get bent out of shape over this decision.

I am not worried about it because I know that God and His

purposes are not well-worn words in a carelessly repeated

pledge. I know that God’s sovereignty does not depend on

nebulous lip service. And I know from my Bible that there

are times when God prefers to hide, and that, when He does

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