Friday, September 22nd 2017

In God we trust? A new decade for building trust

MSNBC has a five-year-old running poll asking whether the slogan “In God We Trust” should be removed from American currency. A better question for this new decade is, “which” God do we trust?


BY DAVID RICKEY — You’ve probably seen the sign over the cash register at a country diner:

In God We Trust – All Others, CASH

That line occurred to me when I received an email a few years ago about an MSNBC poll asking whether we should have “In God We Trust” on our money. The email said:

Here’s your chance to let the media know where the people stand on our faith in God, as a nation.

coin-in-god-we-trust2Started in 2005, and still running, the MSNBC poll itself was originally intended to garner support for removing the words from U.S. currency, but quickly turned into a waved standard for supporters of the short creed.

Similar online polls have emerged over the past five years, the most common result being 89% in favor of retaining the four words and 11% in favor of removing the adage. Though the poll was framed in terms of the separation of Church and State, the whole issue, for me, raises the question “In what God, if any, do we trust?”

sedekah11Whose trust in which god?

My guess is that the people who sent this email trust in a god who is on “our side,” but not on the side of the oppressed. It’s a god who supports prosperity for the already rich but not economic and social equality for the poor and disenfranchised. The God of the Bible loves the weak and the poor, often because they can easily recognize God’s love and more readily respond with love than those who put their trust in riches. Do we trust in a god who challenges us beyond these self-serving theologies? Do we trust in a god who speaks as validly through the Qur’an, or the Bhagavad-Gita, or the Tao te Ching, as through the Gospels?

And what does it mean to trust such a god? Trust doesn’t mean security. Trust means taking a risk, as in risking “self” to serve the greater good. It means stepping out in faith without regard for personal safety. I believe it means spending the dollars that have “In God We Trust” without asking “What’s in it for me?” It’s the opposite of having a “trust fund” mentality.

Old wisdom for a new year

In the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible a covenant with God was a matter of absolute trust.  Whenever the ancient Hebrews sought complete security in their military, international trade relations, taxes, alliances with other nations, and even spying (i.e., military intelligence), this often showed a lack of trust in God. Property and money belongs to God, in the biblical picture, and people are the temporary stewards of the planet. Such trust is difficult when “national security” is threatened and distrust abounds between people, but it opens one to letting go of ourselves and embracing the other, both God and neighbor.

Only if this country truly believes in a god (however each of us defines that) who seeks to work through us to change the world, who calls on us to sacrifice our Ego for the well-being of all, who challenges each of us to let go of our grip on those little green pieces of paper as the source of our security.

money-scalesTrusting as a balancing act

Judaism, for example, claims that all people have a “good impulse” and an “evil impulse”, the latter being an internal drive for acquiring money, sex, possessions and children.  However, this evil impulse is not in and of itself evil because the things it craves are gifts from God; the impulse is evil insofar as it directs the ego away from God, the creator, and towards possessions, the creation. The good impulse, that inner desire to love God and neighbor, balances the evil impulse, like two sides of the same coin.  When the two impulses are in harmony, then one’s drive for physical and material satisfaction is directed to God and compassionately shared with neighbor.

At the beginning of this new year and decade, we can challenge ourselves to place more trust in something or someone beyond ourselves and our possessions, taking the risk to lose what we possess yet gaining wealth that neither thief can steal nor moth can destroy.  Once we gain what Alan Watts so aptly called the “wisdom of insecurity”, then and only then should we say on those pieces of paper: “In God We Trust.”

David Rickey is an Episcopal priest, Soul’s Code co-founder and counselor in San Francisco who does a weekly ministry at a residence for the elderly in northern California. Follow David on Twitter.

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2 Comments on “In God we trust? A new decade for building trust”

  1. I am starting a business with that exact intent, and thank you for offering a framework for some of the conventional anxieties that arise about *money*, which in fact, is an "energy"

  2. I applaud your efforts. There's nothing wrong with making money as long as we make it serving others and spend it to serve others as well as to nurture our souls not assuage our anxieties. Let me know how it goes.


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