Summary: This message was delivered to a secular audience at the cemetery in Reed City, MI on Memorial Day, 2006.
Address given Memorial Day, 2006, at Reed City Cemetery
by Rev. David Moe, Pastor of Hersey Congregational Church
… “(O)ne nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In this brief message I’ve been asked to deliver this morning, I’d like to focus on just two of those words, found in the Pledge of Allegiance to our Flag — “under God.”
I’m old enough, and perhaps some of you are as well, to remember when the man who was arguably our greatest general of World War II, and certainly one of our greatest presidents, Dwight Eisenhower, shamed a reluctant Congress into inserting the words “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance to our Flag.
As a young teen, I remember people questioning the need for that official act. After all, “one nation under God,” had always been assumed. Now, I’m forced to wonder if Ike’s effort wasn’t based on his vision of what was to come, perhaps even more quickly than he or anyone else of his generation, ever could have imagined.
Today, the constitutionality of the inclusion of God’s name is being challenged in the courts, not only in our pledge, but also on our currency. Fifty years ago, this would have been a no-brainer for the judiciary, for no court in the land would have even considered hearing the case.
But right now, as this issue remains in judicial limbo, both a U.S. District Court and a Federal Court of Appeals, have ruled against the inclusion of “under God” in the pledge, having determined it violates the non-existent constitutional provision of separation of church and state.
And by the way, pay close attention to what I just said. Despite the pomposity of the ACLU and other such organizations, no provision or guarantee calling for a separation of church and state, is to be found anywhere, not in our Constitution, nor in any of its Amendments.
In my senior year in high school, Eisenhower also said something that’s stuck with me these nearly 50 years. He said, “America is good, and America is great. But when America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
America, of course, is still great. But we have to concede that her image is somewhat tarnished, and that she’s not as great as she once was. Nonetheless, she remains, unquestionably, the greatest nation this world has ever known.
I believe that’s true, because America was founded, based on the first truly moral form of government the world has ever known — one nation under God. And because of that, God truly has blessed America. But over these years, we’ve seen America’s greatness slip, just as we’ve seen a downward plunge in her goodness.
I wonder what the souls of those we honor today — those dressed in uniforms of blue, and grey, and green, and khaki — who gave their lives to keep America one nation under God — I wonder what they would think about the events that have occurred over the past half-century.
These men and women served and died, to ensure that the goodness and the greatness Eisenhower spoke of, would endure.
But I wonder if they’d see our efforts to honor them today, as little more than hypocrisy, shrouded in the dim light of apathy.
I wonder what they would think about the fact, that if today’s teens say “God” or “Jesus Christ” on many high school campuses, they risk suspension — if they aren’t cussing.
I wonder what they’d think of the fact, that Americans have legally murdered 45 million babies over the past 33 years.
I wonder what they’d think about the right to vote that they fought and died to preserve, only to know that less than a third of us exercise that right.
I wonder what they’d think of the destruction of the family, and the attempts being made to legally re-define the word “family,” from a marriage between a man and woman, to a so-called covenant of human plurality, which, by necessity, must remain largely undefined.
So much for America’s goodness.
But I also wonder what they’d think of what’s happened to America’s greatness.
In the America they fought and died for, American jobs stayed in America, and weren’t exported to those nations paying the lowest starvation wages.
In the America they fought and died for, cops were respected, our streets were safe, and locking the doors of our homes was something we did to keep the children in, not the bad guys out!
In the America they fought and died for, people thanked God for their constitutionally-guaranteed freedom to worship, and they exercised that right on every Lord’s day..
Every Memorial Day, we decorate the graves of our honored dead, bring out the band, hold a parade, lay a wreath at the monument at the county building, fire a 21-gun salute, play taps, and then retire to have a picnic or a barbecue.