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Soul Food:

‘In God’ has historical relevance

May 08, 2008|By MICHÈLE MARR

Dan Nehrbass, one of three pastors at Fountain Valley United Methodist Church, has a bachelor’s in classical civilization from UCI along with a master’s in theology from Talbot, a master’s in ministerial studies from Indiana Wesleyan and a master’s of divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Perhaps that’s why he connected the significance of the motto “In God We Trust” with the anti-communist era during which it replaced “E Pluribus Unum.”

Communism, he explained, is “a social application of a deeper philosophy” credited to the German Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Known as the dialectic, it assumes there is no sovereign being in the universe. Absent a sovereign God, Karl Marx argued, the government would better serve as a sovereign power than any individual could. In a communist state, there can be no God because there cannot be two sovereign powers.

In the ’50s, Nehrbass said, “some astute Americans recognized this profound truth.” They saw that the motto “In God We Trust” not only rejected communism but also acknowledged that in the absence of a sovereign God someone would attempt to assume that place.


“No American,” Nehrbass says, “wants to see that happen.”

Unseth is surprised that some city leaders have a problem with the display of the congressionally approved motto.

“I think it expresses both conscience and humility simultaneously,” he says, “and those are good values for us to be thinking about when deciding on community issues.”

Given the behavior of some of our former mayors and certain council members, I might prefer the motto be “In God We Fear.” But short of that, I’ll take “In God We Trust.”

MICHÈLE MARR is a freelance writer from Huntington Beach. She can be reached at

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