You see it on every coin and dollar bill, but surely familiarity has bread contempt (or at least complacency). Today (April 22nd) is the date the motto “In God We Trust” first appeared on US coinage, back in 1864, on the eve of the Civil War. Congress passed legislation that authorized the minting of a two-cent coin. The Mint Director was directed to develop the designs for these coins for final approval of the Secretary. IN GOD WE TRUST first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.
The phrase was widely popularized in America by the last line of Francis Scott Key’s beloved “Star Spangled Banner” which would become our national anthem. The last stanza (known to so few citizens) is this —
O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us as a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
In later decades, apparently Theodore Roosevelt disapproved of the motto. In a letter to William Boldly in 1907, he wrote:
“My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, 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... It is a motto which it is indeed well to have inscribed on our great national monuments, in our temples of justice, in our legislative halls, and in building such as those at West Point and Annapolis — in short, wherever it will tend to arouse and inspire a lofty emotion in those who look thereon. But it seems to me eminently unwise to cheapen such a motto by use on coins, just as it would be to cheapen it by use on postage stamps, or in advertisements.”
The original motto of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum” was replaced by “In God We Trust” by an act of Congress in 1956, and in 1957 the phrase was also added to all US currency as well coin.
It is right and proper for Christians to express their trust in the Lord God publicly, in our praises, testimonies and exhortations. A quick survey of the book of Psalms reveals this — as the follow verses so clearly display.
• Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. (4:5)
• And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. (9:10)
• Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (20:7)
• In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. (22:4-5)
• O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. (25:2)
• The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. (28:7)
• I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord. (31:6)
• But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” (31:14)
• Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. (32:10)
• For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. (33:21)
• trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness… Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. (37:3, 5)
• He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! (40:3-4)
• In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? …in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? (56:4, 11)
• trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. …Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. (62:8, 10)
• For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. (71:5)
• O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! (84:12)
• Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God. (86:2)
• It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (118:8-9)
• Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. (146:3)
If only our national motto were a call (TRUST THE LORD!), rather than what I fear it has become: merely a relic of civil religion.