No one seeking power in U.S. government gets far by touting religious beliefs. However, everyone in government puts their hand over their heart while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance—and concludes by saying “one nation under God…”
So why would a nation that denies religion any seat of honor at its power table allow “Under God” to be uttered in association with the flag representing its freedom? For those two words we can thank President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He signed the bill Congress passed to make them speak volumes of truth about our worth as a people.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—like God’s love—separate us from animals and signify a soul. These freedoms cannot come from a state—only from the source of human agency, which believers call God.
All people have equal shares of those birthrights. This Sunday’s first reading shows Peter, Christ’s choice for our church’s first leader, giving a similar lesson to a fellow believer (Acts 10:34-35):
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”
God’s love is a gift—and our life is a grant so that love can be shared. In his gospel, John quotes Jesus’s terms for the life we’ve been granted (Jn 15:9-17):
Love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
As a human, Jesus shared in our grants of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But as God, he modeled for us the gift that gives those grants value—by investing his earthly life in the saving of other lives. This is a stark contrast to evil’s tendency to enhance one’s own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness at the cost of others. For example, many who believe those grants are rights count abortion among them. Saint Mother Theresa explained the fallacy of that belief:
“Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”
Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are inalienable because they are God-granted. But any nation claiming to be under God can never be at peace unless all human lives—made possible by God’s love—are recognized as His investments in us, requiring a return.