I remember the first time I heard the term “fiat currency.” I asked my economics instructor, “So currency only has value because we believe it has value?”
“That’s correct,” he replied.
I pushed. “So what happens if the entire country just stopped believing a dollar had any value?”
He smiled. “Hope you’ve stocked up on chickens.”
I still find this concept amazing. It’s almost like we’ve been fooled. Of course, we haven’t. We all know a dollar is just a piece of paper. We accept it because bartering stinks…literally. Know how many chickens I’d need for box seats at a Tiger’s game?
As I grow older, I realized that much of what we take for granted is the same. It exists because we believe it exists, or we believe it’s important. American Idol held top rankings for season after season because millions of people believed it was important to watch. More important than working a second job or writing a novel. When millions of people stopped believing that, ratings slipped. Or everyone just missed Paula Abdul.
Is America Real?
But let’s take it in the other direction, to a grander scale. America. Or the country of your choosing. America exists because millions of people believe that they are part of it and that our leadership is keeping things running. In 1787, it took great effort and a lot of compromise to convince far fewer people and only 13 (really 12, Rhode Island sat out) colonies that America was a pretty good idea. Today, we just assume it from the time we’re old enough to think along such lines.
Theoretically, though, 300 million people could decide that they don’t want to be part of the U.S.A. anymore. They’d prefer to be individual states, or regions, or counties. Short of full scale war, there really wouldn’t be much the government could do about it, especially since the military is comprised of men and women from all 50 states. It’s not north and south. It’s the whole country.
I’m a bit off track. That last paragraph would make for a great novel, though. That scenario is unlikely, of course. Because most of us are smart enough to know what sort of chaos would follow. Better to just vote everyone out. Not as messy…though that’s arguable as well.
My point is that even the most solid pillar of our belief, the existence of an America, is only held together because enough of us believe it to be true. It’s a bit of a fragile existence if you really think about it. Go ahead, pursue that “what if…” that’s forming in your brain. Kinda staggering ain’t it?
What are You Standing on?
The true irony, of course, is that many a worldy man will state that God exists only because enough people believe in Him. Mr. Worldly will say this from a country that exists because he believes in it and is likely getting paid with fiat currency to make such statements.
The truth–and I do mean THE TRUTH–is that every human alive on the planet could stop believing in God and He’d still exist. Unlike America or the dollar bill. This is why I laugh at public surveys. “Do you believe in God?” they’ll ask. As if it would only take a simple majority to change the mind of the remaining believers. We’re not that gullible.
Just so we’re on the same page with our non-believing friends, what they’re telling us is that God is only as real as we believe Him to be. But they have faith in that dollar, and America, and American Idol. All of which exist only by the will of the people.
So who’s the crazy one here? I have no faith in America (though I do consider myself a patriot), or that dollar bill, and certainly not American Idol. That makes sense, because if the unthinkable happened and America collapsed, I’d better not tether my survival to her existence. If the dollar collapses, I’d better have some canned food to hold me over. Maybe even chickens.
God, however, doesn’t collapse. He will remain the same today, yesterday, and forever. My faith doesn’t give God credibility. God gives my faith credibility. So while the world scrambles to maintain a hold on what it perceives as vital and important, like land and currency, rest assured that no scrambling is required on your part. You only need to trust in the One who created you.
We don’t have a fiat God. We have the ever present, very real, always dependable God of creation. Let’s take a moment today, in between our reading of the headlines, and rejoice in that.