By Pastor Ron Buxton
This past week we celebrated the 241st anniversary of our nation’s independence. And we’ve come a long way since those powerful words were written– “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.” It was the Declaration of Independence that radically changed the international landscape forever. Today, I want to return to some more comments from folks like Thomas Jefferson, and challenge us all to truly celebrate what occurred more than two centuries ago.
Suffice it to say, for good or for bad, our founding fathers would have a hard time recognizing our nation in 2017. I’m not talking about its natural boundaries and physical landmarks. Certainly, they would be stunned by the modern construction and modes of transportation. However, the civility–or more importantly, the lack thereof–would shock them. No matter where you stand on the cultural issues of today, almost everyone agrees that the expression–the United States of America– seems to be a distant and nostalgic memory. Notwithstanding, we are still (by the grace of God) the United States of America–the land of dreams and opportunities. Frankly, I am speaking more from a sociological perspective, and hope that the reader doesn’t read into my words anything as being political.
John Adams wrote: “I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence–for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.” To put it in modern vernacular, Adams sensed that God Almighty brought freedom to the mind and soul of humanity through our great nation’s introduction on the world stage. The “self-evident” truths endowed by our Creator were never applied before on a national scale, and so they, thus, challenged the “might makes right” geopolitical paradigms of that day. History students realize that a few short years later, the chains of tyranny were broken in France also. In fact, we became the envy of most developing countries since. Not an envy based on pride or prosperity, but a desire to achieve the morality and value systems that afford the opportunity as defined in the phrase: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I’ve titled my musings today based in large part on the words written by our earliest national leaders. None of them went to the same church, and some of them even held to the beliefs of deism. But that being said, they still envisioned a nation that, although independent from a tyrannical world power such as England, was to be absolutely dependent upon the Sovereign God as they understood Him to be. It was our first president, George Washington, who stated: “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” Thus, the need for a transcendent Source to guide, govern, and guard the new nation was agreed upon by all.
In my previous article I talked about a divinely nurtured awareness (our sentient D.N.A.). That’s the “self-evident” business mentioned in the Declaration of Independence’s first sentence of its second paragraph. When those actual words entered the public dialogue, the people of that day knew that something special had been born upon the world stage. It is our challenge today to return to what was actually celebrated 241 years ago. Let us set aside our “blue” or “red” leanings, and appreciate what those brave men and women sought for in our common good. If you saw a turtle on top of a fence post, you would know that he didn’t get there by himself! The same could be said of our great nation. Happy Dependence Day!