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God and Money

Jonathan B. Wight

Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, is in a tiff because Wayne Powell, his Democratic opponent for Congress, allegedly has no problem with removing "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency. [I say allegedly because of complications you can read about here.]

Powell allegedly said: "America has a place for all people, regardless of faith, religion or lack thereof. I wouldn't object to replacing `In God We Trust' with the first American motto E Pluribus Unum (Latin; `Out of many, one')."

Cantor, who is Jewish, has no compunction about riling up the Christian right.

How shallow is this attack? To explore, let's analyze how a Christian with ethical mores passed down from a God-centric view might view the overlapping of god and money.

Exodus 20:4 notes that: "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below." A picture of John F. Kennedy on the half-dollar with "In God We Trust" suggests an unhealthy mingling of the spiritual and the corporeal through the idol of money.

Matthew 22:20-22 reports that Jesus was being questioned by the Pharisees, who were trying to trap him in idolatry by asking if it was spiritually lawful to pay a tax tribute to Caesar. Holding a coin, Jesus gave a wise rejoinder: "Whose is this image and superscription?...Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."

There is a proper separation of the spiritual from the political economy. John 2 records that Jesus went into the temple at Jerusalem and found the money changers there. What was his response? He threw them out of the temple, overturned their tables and poured out their money.

America's founding leaders did not put "In God We Trust" on their coins or bills (it was only added to some coins during the Civil War and to paper money only in the late 1950s).

President Teddy Roosevelt objected to putting statements about God on our money:

"To put such a motto on coins," Roosevelt wrote, "or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good but does positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege."

There are plenty of other, non-God-centric views, for why challenger Wayne Powell's approach better fits with U.S. mores: E Pluribus Unum.


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