When I went to the DMV (no line!) to register and pay taxes on the car I was given three choices for a license plate: Delicate Arch/Life Elevated, Skier/Greatest Snow on Earth, or In God We Trust which became an option just last year. Since we hiked to Delicate Arch last year I guessed right that that would be Marie's choice.
With a temporary plate in the back window, Maire then went to get an emissions test. At the local car shop, the proprietor enthusiastically asked Marie if she was planning to get the new In God We Trust plate. He asked the question in such a way that Marie knew he was assuming that it was the obvious and preferred choice for every good Utahan. Marie politely replied that she was going with the Delicate Arch plate in support of Utah's scenic beauty.
Currently there are 17 states (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) that offer an In God We Trust license plate. Fourteen years ago when we bought the van we may have been more inclined to consider such a plate, but given the current rise of religious nationalism and religious extremism around the world, Marie and I are united in choosing to not be political with our plates.
Don't get me wrong, I am all for Trusting in God and I think the motto looks good on our coins and currency. What I am not for is folks who promote their individual interpretation of God as the God everyone else should trust and obey. When Joel was a third grade student a The Anglican International School of Jerusalem, he and all of the other students in the elementary school sang the catchy song "Our God is an Awesome God" by Michael W. Smith for the Christmas program. It was a new song for us Emmetts. We liked it. It repeats its only verse over and over:
"Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God"
The students at AISJ were local and international. They were Christians of all denominations plus Jews and Muslims. They could all sing this song knowing that this interpretation of God was broad enough that all could accept it.
Harder to accept would be a song, a statement, a license plate or a flag that outwardly conveys or inwardly represents a much more narrow view of God. A god who is intolerant of other religions, who turns away the hungry and homeless, who relegates women to a subservient status, who denies the very science around which this world revolves, and who is more inclined to exclude, vilify and legislate against those who see life differently.
In 1992 Iraq added two words to the center of its flag: Allahu Akbar--God is Great. It is a similar sentiment to In God We Trust.
Since its inception as a state, Saudi Arabia's flag has included the shahada (declaration of faith). It states: There is no god but God (Allah in Arabic) and Mohammad is the Messenger of God.
ISIS incorporates the shahada on its flag too. The flag of ISIS obviously represents a very strict and intolerant interpretation of Islam and of God. The flags of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, as with the new Utah license plate, are more likely open to various degrees of interpretation about the role of God in society. I'm sure most women of Saudi Arabia would be supportive of a God who thinks it is OK for women to drive.
If when you buy your next car and you get to chose a new license plate, I would hope that if you select the In God We Trust plate you are doing so because your God is an awesome God who reigns with wisdom and love and because His example helps you to also live a life guided by wisdom and love.