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Next week, as we celebrate the 4th of July, millions of Americans will have cookouts, go swimming, play cornhole and watch fireworks. A few of us actually will pause for a moment to reflect upon what the day is all about.
As I’m sure you’re aware, the 4th of July is our national Independence Day, memorializing the day our Founding Fathers declared their independence from Great Britain.
This became the official start of the Revolutionary War and eventually led to our emergence as the most prosperous country the world has ever seen. This great act of bravery in the quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are certainly well worth remembering and celebrating.
Independence and freedom are universal ideals, but in the past 236 years they have been inextricably linked to the United States and for good reason. No other experiment in self-government in the history of the world has lasted so long with such good effect.
From the humble beginnings of the early colonists, we have become the most wealthy, generous, productive and inventive people on the planet.
As a country, we honor the rights of minorities, women and children like no other nation ever has. The wisdom of our Founding Fathers in creating our system of government, unique among all other forms of government before or since, has allowed all of us to reap these wonderful benefits.
But all of that didn’t just happen by chance. When those honorable settlers declared their independence from an overbearing monarchy, they had in mind the kind of society they wanted to create. And it is difficult for me to imagine their doing a better job (although it seems some do not agree with that assessment and are now trying to “remake” our country into something very different).
When considering how our nation began, it is important to remember that, in addition to declaring their independence from King George, the Founders also were declaring their dependence upon God. They openly acknowledged that they were in dependence upon God for his provision, in dependence upon God for his protection and in dependence upon God for the success of their new country.
Further, the value we place on the individual and individual rights is a reflection of the value our founders believed God placed on the individual.The second line of the Declaration of Independence says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The collective conscience of our founders was one that was grateful to and accountable to God. Did they all believe exactly the same things about God or the Bible? No. But they all understood that there was a God to whom they were accountable and upon whom they depended.
They also understood that their bold experiment would only work if the citizens of the new country they were establishing also realized that they, too, were accountable to their Creator.
Samuel Adams said, “We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
Benjamin Franklin added this: “I’ve lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: That God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We’ve been assured in the sacred writings that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”
And consider these words from George Washington: “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”
Our Founding Fathers openly asked for and relied upon God’s blessing for the United States. And in the years since, God certainly has richly blessed our nation. Ironically, this very blessing, and the abundance we have in our nation because of it, now allows many in our country to recognize or acknowledge no longer our need for God and our dependence upon him.
In our pride, it has become easy to think that the greatness of America came from American ingenuity rather than from the hand of God. In Deuteronomy 8, the Bible warns against just such a thing – and of the inevitable destruction that will eventually come as a result of forgetting God.
The closing sentence of the Declaration of Independence reads: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
This coming week, as we celebrate Independence Day and the courage of our Founders, may we also acknowledge, as they did, that we, too, are in dependence upon God.
For, as Ronald Reagan said, “If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can find previous columns at www.SentinelNews.com/columnsor by searching the Web site for “Souder.”