A large one page ad by a prominent corporation trumpeted this expression, “One Nation under God.” In it, the company declared our democracy and Orthodox Christianity to be essentially inseparable. Our history certainly confirms the influence of Christianity on that history.
Though our founding fathers were a mixed bunch religiously and the more prominent ones appear less than Orthodox Christians, they, for the most part, had strong religious convictions. Exactly how those convictions affected our founding institutions is however difficult to pin down.
The one thing we do know for a fact is that their collective religious experience and knowledge of history led them to prohibit the establishment of a state religion, which was the norm all over Europe at the time. That prevailing state religion was Christianity in essentially every case. Whatever, the concern for church/state collusion among the founders, it was specifically about Christianity/state cooperation and intrigue. That should be obvious.
So how is it that Orthodox Christianity and our government have become so intertwined?
It was inevitable, I guess, because of the very history of the church state relationships which the founders cautioned against. Though many initial colonists came here to escape the effects of oppression of church/state tyranny, they were so enamored with their own religious system, that they quickly and eagerly re-established the same situation here. In the minds of the religious of almost every persuasion, the idea of church/state collusion was okay as long as the church was the one to which they subscribed. Quite evidently that is still true.
The efforts of Orthodox Christianity to control the government and enforce its doctrines are everywhere apparent. Religious leaders routinely espouse specific government policy from the pulpit, while many political leaders and candidates declare their affiliation with Christianity as a major qualification for office, implying indirectly that those of another faith are less qualified, if not disqualified.
Though polling of the American public often shows that the church’s policy positions are rejected by the majority of citizens, the church continues to exercise an outsized influence over government policy through the control it has on the minds of its membership. Required weekly sermons delivered to an audience conditioned to accept the wisdom of the pulpit as indisputable, is a perfect mechanism for political indoctrination and control. If then the church declares that the government exists to advance the cause of the church, its members become duty bound to support more and more government aided religious oppression of the general public.
In this light, One nation under God becomes One nation under the thumb of the church, aided and abetted by the secular government. That may seem noble and righteous to the Orthodox minority, but its undemocratic nonsense to the rest.
There is no way to separate government policy from ethical considerations (religious convictions if you prefer), but if those convictions involve suppressing and violating the convictions of those that differ with us, then we need to proceed with cautious humility. Certainty of our own righteousness is the root of much evil, and that fact is exemplified over and over in our history of “One Nation Under God.”