The school board in Fargo, North Dakota, has voted to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before their biweekly meetings, ruling that the Pledge does not align with the district’s diversity code. The board’s vice chairman explained that the problem is two words: “Under God.”
The words “under God” were added to the Pledge in 1954 by a joint resolution of Congress and have withstood numerous legal challenges over the years. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, upon signing the bill, stated: “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.”
How many of our leaders today believe that “spiritual weapons” are “our country’s most powerful resource”?
The Fargo school board certainly does not. In fact, the board’s president recommended that members replace the Pledge of Allegiance with a “shared statement of purpose” which she thought was more appropriate for their work.
In other words, rather than being “one nation under God,” they will be “one nation under us.”
Salman Rushdie remains hospitalized after attack
While our nation slides ever further into moral relativism and missional chaos, many of our geopolitical enemies are choosing the opposite course. Consider Iran as an example.
Author Salman Rushdie was stabbed roughly ten times Friday as he prepared to speak at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York. His family said yesterday that he remains in critical condition in the hospital. Rushdie was taken off a ventilator over the weekend but is being treated for multiple wounds and may lose his right eye.
His attacker’s motives are not yet known, but an initial investigation suggested he had posted on social media about his support of Iran. He may have acted in response to an edict (known as a fatwa) by Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 calling for Rushdie’s death.
Rushdie’s novel, Satanic Verses, is considered blasphemous by many Muslims. The fatwa calls for Rushdie’s murder and offers a $3 million bounty for anyone who kills him. It has never been revoked by Iran’s leaders.
An Iranian government official denied today that Tehran was involved in the assault, but he added that his country considers “[Rushdie] and his supporters worth [sic] of blame and even condemnation.” The front page of a newspaper in Tehran said yesterday that Rushdie had gotten “divine vengeance” and claimed that former President Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo, his former secretary of state, “are next.”
In related news, the Justice Department unsealed charges last week against a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards for attempting to arrange the murder of former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Mike Pompeo and former State Department Iran policy coordinator Brian Hook have received extended Secret Service protection due to Iranian threats as well.
Three steps to getting elected
A perceptive essay in the New York Times explains why Iran remains such a threat to the US. Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, reminds us that the 1979 Iranian revolution was fueled by religious fundamentalists focused on anti-Americanism. From then until today, the regime’s rulers have made their opposition to the United States central to their nation’s revolutionary identity.
Whether the issue is Iran’s nuclear program, its sponsorship of terrorist regimes in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza, or its geopolitical ambition to rebuild the Persian Empire, the ideological pattern is clear: America is the “Great Satan” who must be opposed for the sake of Iran’s survival. Iran’s entrenched leaders depend on this “threat” to legitimize their power, unify their military, and forestall meaningful reforms within their country.
I am reminded of an observation a perceptive friend shared with me many years ago. He noted that to motivate people to your cause, do three things: (1) convince them they have an enemy; (2) convince them they cannot defeat their enemy; and (3) convince them you will defeat their enemy if they vote for you, give you money, or do whatever else you want them to do.
This strategy has empowered Iran’s leaders for more than four decades. The despotic rulers of Russia, China, Cuba, and North Korea are similarly fixated on the “threat” of the West. This missional focus enables and protects their leadership despite their manifest failures to enhance the lives of their people.
Embracing a mission God can bless
On one hand, we have the West’s relativistic insistence on tolerance of all truth claims (except those considered “intolerant”), to the demise of truth and the forfeiture of missional focus. On the other, we have autocratic regimes that focus missionally on external threats (usually America and the West) to enhance their personal power at the expense of their citizens.
Scripture offers us a third way: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Let’s consider three reasons we should embrace this missional command.
One: God cannot empower any other purpose, because to glorify anyone or anything ahead of himself is to commit idolatry. As a result, when we seek to glorify God, we position ourselves to experience his omnipotent power and omniscient leadership. When we don’t, we don’t.
Two: He made all that is, which is why “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). (For more on the stupendous magnificence of God’s creation, see my latest website article, “Supergiant Betelgeuse has unprecedented stellar eruption.”)
Three: He purchased our eternal salvation. We should therefore respond with gratitude: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
I plan to say more tomorrow about living for God’s glory. For today, let’s close with advice from the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca (4 BC–AD 65): “Adopt once and for all some single rule to live by, and make your whole life conform to it.”
What “single rule” will you live by today?