In "One Nation, Enriched by Biblical Wisdom," David Brooks shows once again why his New York Times columns are "must-reads" for our day and age. The topic: the constitutionality of the pledge of allegiance (oral arguments will be heard tomorrow by the Supreme Court). Brook’s opinion: a certain amount of religion in public schools is a boon for America. Why? The modern civil rights movement would not have been successful without its biblical foundation. In Brooks words: "If you believe that the separation of church and state means that people should not bring their religious values into politics, then, if Chappell is right, you have to say goodbye to the civil rights movement. It would not have succeeded as a secular force."
Commenting on a recent book by David L. Chappell, entitled A Stone of Hope, Brooks concludes that the optimistic view of human nature held by northern white liberals would have been insufficient to turn the tide in favor of federal legislation that put teeth into the constitutional bite of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. What proved essential (according the Chappell’s research) was the pessimistic view of human nature held by southern black Christians. Their hope was in God, not man, to effect the change of human hearts that was necessary for the change in laws. As Martin Luther King put it, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." It would not do so without the hand of Providence guiding men and women to this end.
Whether you believe in God or not, the Bible and commentaries on the Bible can be read as instructions about what human beings are like and how they are likely to behave. Moreover, this biblical wisdom is deeper and more accurate than the wisdom offered by the secular social sciences, which often treat human beings as soulless utility-maximizers, or as members of this or that demographic group or class.
"From this perspective, what gets recited in the pledge is the least important issue before us. Understanding what the phrase "one nation under God" might mean — that’s the important thing. That’s not proselytizing; it’s citizenship."