[Episcopal Diocese of Ohio] Sisters and brothers in Christ,
In my prayers since hearing of the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday, these words of the Pledge of Allegiance have come up repeatedly: “…one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Written in 1892 by the Rev. Francis Bellamy and amended by Congress in 1954 to include the words “under God,” they articulate with clarity what it means to be American, describing our most basic priorities: unity, freedom, justice, and equality. They remind us that we are, as a nation, both divinely inspired and ultimately accountable to God.
At the same time, they describe well for me the vocation to be Christian, reflecting some essential tenets of our faith: that we are made whole by our unity, not our uniformity; that we are each made more complete by the rich differences that are brought to us by others; and that we become the body of Jesus by our sacrificial inclusivity and in protecting the rights and responsibilities of the other, indeed of all others. Like our nation’s motto, E pluribus unum, they echo Jesus’ prayer that we all may be one. “Out of many, one.” Indeed, we model the very nature of God’s triune self when we let God make us whole in the diverse body of Christ.
Nationalism is a useful principle, not as an expression of pride, but as an expression of purpose. It focuses our commitment and accountability as a people organized around common values. In the United States of America there is no “white nation,” there is only “one nation.” In the United States of America, there is no place for “white nationalism” or any other such limited nationalism. Our national indivisibility is not gained by exclusion or derision or violence. Those are not the characteristics of a nation under God; rather they are manifestations of the power of evil.
A nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, will stand up against the power of evil that strives through hatred and the violence of words and actions to separate us from one another and from God. A nation under God will abide no supremacy but the supremacy of love. A nation under God is one whose citizens will hold one another and our elected servants accountable for a liberty and justice available to all, indeed that unite us as one.
It is our vocation as Americans and as Christians, in the face of violence, degradation, and fear, to work and pray for the unity for which Jesus petitioned God, in our own nation and around the world. It is our vocation as Americans and as Christians to stand with courage, to speak with love, and to hold ourselves and one another accountable for the liberty, security, and justice for all that God dreams for all of God’s children.
I join your prayers for open hearts, level minds, civil discourse, and peace.
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio