“In God we trust.” It’s our national motto. Yet even this simple statement of faith is being challenged by those who would remove any acknowledgment of God from the public square.
Sadly, many Christians, and even our churches, are unwitting supporters of this censorship. We are censoring ourselves! How?
The national motto did not just spring into existence with its official recognition in 1956. It had been used on our currency since the time of the Civil War when our country was driven by national calamity to cry out to God. Most believe that the motto came from Francis Scott Key’s poem “The Defense of Fort McHenry” which became a popular patriotic song set to the tune of “The Anacreontic Song” by John Stafford Smith. Destined to become our national anthem in 1931, this song is now known as “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The last stanza contains the words, “in God is our trust,” from which the national motto is derived – but the last stanza is often overlooked and forgotten.
Francis Scott Key was an eye witness of the British attack on Fort McHenry in 1814. He had watched the battle into the night from a ship in the harbor and wrote a poem recording his reaction upon waking in the pre-dawn hours.
The first stanza is really a question in which Francis Scott Key asks if the flag he saw waving over Fort McHenry as the sun went down – and through the flashes of exploding bombs after dark – was still waving in the morning.
In the second stanza, Key dramatically answers the question. In poetic prose, he says that the first rays of dawn have shown that the flag is indeed still waving! Indeed, the battle had been won. The third stanza essentially mocks the British invaders who would take away our freedom. This stanza was dropped from the anthem during World War II out of respect for our former enemies, now allies.
It is the fourth stanza which Christians should insist upon including because it is there that Key gives all the glory to God! In far too many public performances of the anthem – even in or churches – we hear only the first stanza, leaving out all mention of God and not even answering the question posed by the first stanza. Many, perhaps most, are not even aware that the other three stanzas exist. The official or “service version” of the anthem includes all but the third stanza. I urge you to learn it, sing it and teach it to your children.
You congregation will be blessed to join Francis Scott Key as they “praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.'”
Tom Walker is the president of the Greenhouse Institute. Their flagship Life, Expressions of Joy Dance Academy, will showcase the unabridged anthem in their fourth annual student and faculty production, “In God we trust,” in Coconut Creek on June 7. For more information, visit ExpressionsofJoy.org.