Janet Ruth: 'One Nation Under God'
By Jennifer E. Jones
Under God -- two little words that cause a big commotion. The pledge of allegiance is under fire by those who believe that it’s forcing faith on America. Former Assistant United States Attorney and author of 'One Nation Under God' Janet Ruth offers the Christian response to war between church and state.
Jennifer E. Jones: Why should we be concerned about the state of the pledge of allegiance?
Janet Ruth: I think we’re all interested after the Ninth Circuit ruled that the pledge was unconstitutional. There were three different national polls that showed that 90 percent of the American public wanted the words kept in. There was a great deal of coverage, backlash, and media attention. It’s something we all care about that I’m not sure we all understand. We don’t understand what the courts are doing. I was trained as a Constitutional Law teacher, and I’m able to use that now and explain to people so that they can see what the real issues are. Then I wanted to go beyond that. This started for me a number of years ago when I started saying, ‘Should I be more politically involved? What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to react to this?’ I took it mainly to my Bible and [wondered] what does God have to say about this. That started me on a journey that led me to write this book and trying to help people ask those same questions.
Jennifer: It’s good that you’ve translated the law language for the average person.
Janet: The first half of the book is looking at the issues; how do we understand this; what is the history of the establishment clause; what have the courts done. Then I start asking the real questions. What is the battle that we’re supposed to be involved in? In some places, I think we have the wrong ideas. I want to clarify those and say, ‘Let’s go back to the Bible.’
Jennifer: Some people may think because our president says he’s a Christian and he’s in charge that the pledge of allegiance is safe. However, that’s not necessarily true, is it?
Janet: We have such a misconception of the presidency ever since the TV age. The president gets up and says [all that he’s going to do], but we forget that he doesn’t make the laws. He can recommend laws and put his political pressure on Congress but that’s not his job. It’s Congress’s job. So first it’s important that we understand our own government. This is a democracy. We’re part of this government, and God gave us our right to vote as a stewardship that we’re supposed to use for his glory.
Jennifer: This is so important since many people don't know how much understanding the government affects a lot of issues that are dear to our hearts.
Janet: We don’t always have to take it so personally. We don’t have to say, ‘This is up to me to save my government.’ God will take care of what He wants the government to do, and He will take care of what He wants me to do. I just need to be responsible with the specific ability that God has given me.
Jennifer: What do you say to the people who believe the phrase “under God” is outdated?
Janet: I go back to the beginning of our nation. Where did we even get this idea that we’re a Christian nation? I challenge some of those ideas. In the book, one of the appendices is written by James Madison at the same time that the First Amendment is being written in the battle to get away from the established church and fight for religious freedom. Madison said again and again that the church is stronger if it’s kept separate from government. Some of those ideas that are 230 years old need to be looked at closer. We’ve come a long way from our whole society being defined by our religion. We are a much different nation than we were then. We can’t just say, ‘Because they said it, it should be so today.’ There have been changes. We have to know whether those changes were good or bad before we say that we have to go back to the way things were 200 years ago. I want us to really think about why George Washington did what he did and why these were written this way.
Jennifer: You point people back to God instead putting the focus on us running around, trying to keep each other under control.
Janet: Chapter 6 is about our motivation. I really question why do we want 'under God' in the pledge; why do we want the Ten Commandments in public places; why do we want the president leading us in prayer. Unfortunately, I think a lot of our motivations are wrong. We’re more interested in having a society that we feel comfortable in. We’re more interested in preserving our own rights. We believe based on what we read in the Bible that God will bless us if we obey His law, and He will punish us if we don’t. So we think let’s get the whole country, whether they believe in God or not, to obey His laws because we, the Christians, want to be blessed and protected. That’s the wrong reason to be doing anything. One chapter is on fear, comfort, pride, and a false idea about what righteousness does in America. Too often we are asking for moral laws and a moral society, and we’re letting people believe that they are saved and right in God’s eyes if they obey this external moral code. Yet it says in the New Testament that it is not by the law it is by grace. So we need to stop masking the lack of God in this country by putting all of God around. It’s God in the heart that matters, not God out on the street corner.
Jennifer: So it’s about having God in our hearts than in our government?
Janet: It’s not so much about us being a Christian nation. It’s about we who are true Christians, who have the Holy Spirit within us and have the revealed Word of God, living up to what it says. Are we acting in love? Are we following the Great Commission? Are we really learning what God has commanded us to do or are we more concerned with political battles?
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