The currency of the United States of America bears the inscription, “In God we trust.” The phrase, which first appeared on U.S. coins in 1862, probably has it origin in the “Star Spangled Banner” written by Francis Scott Key during a battle of the War of 1812. Part of the fourth stanza says, “And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.’”
The phrase was later shortened and placed upon U.S. coins minted during the Civil War as a reassurance to the Union during all the turmoil of that time.
It was much later that the phrase became official. According to Wikipedia, “In 1956, the nation was at a particularly tense time in the Cold War, and the United States wanted to distinguish itself from the Soviet Union, which promoted state atheism. As a result, the 84th Congress passed a joint resolution ‘declaring IN GOD WE TRUST the national motto of the United States.’ The law was signed by President Eisenhower on July 30, 1956, and the motto was progressively added to paper money over a period from 1957 to 1966.”
The phrase has not been without controversy, however. Those who are of a “secularist” mindset have vehemently objected to its use. However, according to a 2003 joint poll by USA Today, CNN, and Gallup, 90% of Americans support the inscription “In God We Trust” on U.S. coins.
Even in light of that, the question remains, though, “Do we really trust in God?” It is one thing to say it; it is quite another thing to actually do it.
It is interesting that the phrase has historically been associated with times of national crisis and heightened anxiety. Times of major stress tend to look for someone or something to believe in.
There is nothing more stressful than the vulnerability of being laid out in an operating room being prepped for surgery. That is where I found myself a couple of weeks ago. I was then reminded of how difficult it is, even for a minister, to trust in God sometimes.
One thing that raised my anxiety level was all of the “disclosures of risk” required by “informed consent” regulations. For example, the anesthesiologist was telling me about a nerve block procedure that is used to greatly reduce the pain. That sounded good, at least until he started telling me about the “minor” risks involved. They didn’t seem so minor to me, especially the last one he mentioned. Finally, I cut him off and simply said, “Just DO it!”
Page 2 of 2 - I took comfort in the fact that, not only did he seem like a nice guy, but also came across as very good at what he does—that and the midazolam, a drug used to calm down folks like me.
Somewhere in the process, a shift took place within myself. I became aware of how efficient and competent the staff was. Their confidence spilled out into the room, and I began to absorb it. My spirit calmed, and I made a decision to place my trust into their care.
Then, the thought came to me that these caregivers were acting as instruments of God to bring about healing and wholeness. It may seem strange for a pastor, but that is the first real though I had of God. And I realized that, when everything else was stripped away, I was indeed ultimately in God’s care.
As anesthetic took over and the world began to fade away, I felt the warm presence of God surround me.
We say, “In God we trust.” But do we? Really?
(The Rev. Al Henager is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Heber Springs, Arkansas. He can be contacted at email@example.com.)