And prior to that, the first time a man flew in an airplane was a momentous occasion.
Then, if you go way back into history, what a day when the first book was printed on moveable type! And what book was that? The Bible, of course.
Another first took place about a month ago at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. What was that momentous occasion? God was booed! Yes, I repeat, God was booed.
It happened, in fact, three times. Three times, trying to correct the error of their ways by leaving “God” out of their platform, the powers that be in the Democratic Party tried to reinsert the word. (That, too, by the way, would also have been a first. Never in the history of this great nation had a political party not acknowledged God in their platform!)
And three times loud booing was heard when delegates were asked to vote in favor of putting “God” back into their platform.
What actually happened was the chairman of the proceedings at that moment, Antonio Villariagosa, read the new wording and called for a voice vote indicating that a two-thirds majority would be necessary to pass the motion. The result was a voice vote that sounded to many like the “nays” had it.
Not sure what to do, Villariagosa asked for another vote. Again, it sounded about the same. So, he tried one more time and again the motion to insert God into the platform of the Democratic Party was met with a loud chorus of boos. Despite the loud vote against God, the chairman declared the motion passed.
So, God was back in the platform of the Democrats, although not really. It felt more like another (biblical) three-fold denial of God by Peter on the night before Jesus was crucified.
As a Christian and an American, I was very disappointed and saddened to hear about this. How disheartening for our country — the land that has as its motto, “In God we trust” — to hear God rejected so boisterously.
I know there have been political candidates and perhaps even political parties that have “used” God for their own advantage. They have spoken, perhaps, with a false piety or a flaunting of their attendance at church in order to win the votes of people of faith. Certainly, that is wrong, too.
But what really concerns me is the light this shines on the spiritual temperature of the people of our nation. It certainly seems to have cooled. Life has become more and more secular, leaving God out of school and the public arena. The belief in the sacredness of human life has been replaced by a woman’s right to choose. Church membership and Sunday morning worship attendance has been steadily dropping in many churches. It seems like many people feel as though they don’t need God.
Personally, I feel we do need God. We need God in our homes, our families and in our communities. And we also need God in our political parties and their platforms. Not just to get votes, but because, as Augustine wrote many years ago, “We are restless till we find our rest in God.”
We were created religious beings. It’s part of our nature as human beings to want to worship someone or something.
The truth of the matter is that we are better people when we acknowledge God and honor him with our lives. We are better people when we strive for good and show our care and concern for those around us. On our own, without God, we become selfish and self-centered. But with God and the moral guidance of the Scriptures, we actually do become better and more compassionate people.
Thank goodness this truth has been honored and lived out by many throughout our nation’s history. One of the greatest was Abraham Lincoln. On April 30, 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln issued the following proclamation for a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer:
"We have been recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and reserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
Perhaps it’s time to humble ourselves once again and confess our national sins, as Lincoln suggests. And no, booing God is not the answer. It is, in fact, a sad commentary on the state of religion in these United States.
One more quote to make us think even more deeply on all of this. It is from the renowned church historian Philip Schaff. He said, “Republican institutions in the hands of a virtuous and God-fearing nation are the very best in the world. But in the hands of a corrupt and irreligious people, they are the very worst and most effective weapons of destruction.”
I hope that, as you go to the polls to vote this year, you will keep these things in mind. And in a spirit of humility and prayer, will choose candidates who acknowledge God, have a strong, personal faith, and desire to truly honor values that include “In God We Trust.”
— The Rev. John Koedyker is pastor of Word of Hope Church in Fruitport.