Although we recognize July 4, 1776 as Independence Day in America, this formal signing of the declaration nearly a month later also has significance in our review of history. Can you imagine the emotions that must have been running through the hearts and minds of a multitude of people on this monumental occasion? Was there an overall sense of jubilation, trepidation, or fear? The impact of Benjamin Franklin’s words must have been a bit daunting when he stated, “We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.” What sacrifices would be necessary for this venture into independence?
There have obviously been challenging components to the American experience all through the years, and it seems that each successive generation brings with it a new set of obstacles and philosophical viewpoints which continue to summon us to greater heights. The nation’s response to these issues will determine our ability to flourish, and the contemporary worldview present in our culture certainly shows a divisiveness that has the potential to hinder our stature here at home as well as abroad. Attaining unity in the midst of diversity is appearing to be a considerable challenge for even the most skilled of leaders.
As we recite the pledge of allegiance and recognize our republic as being “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” are we simply hoping that it will be or do we truly strive to ensure that it is? What is our role in the civic affairs of our community, state, and country? This question has become more and more pertinent for people of faith as God is systematically removed from all areas of the public arena. What is our responsibility in these matters? Do we sit idly by on the sidelines and watch religious liberty be incrementally stripped away with little resistance? How would the Founding Fathers of our country have responded to the current dilemmas faced by people who adhere to religious beliefs?
There is no doubt that we live in a very complex global society, but the underlying factor in our ability to flourish as a nation continues to be our willingness to embrace a moral code that makes freedom possible. John Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and second President of the United States, said, “[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”
In another place John Adams stated,
“[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
(Source: John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, October 11, 1798.)
As we mark this anniversary of the formal signing of the Declaration of Independence, let us spend some time in prayer giving thanks to God for the many blessings bestowed upon our country during these last 237 years. Let us also spend some time in study. How did we get to this point in history? How has the gift of faith shaped our country in the past? How will the gift of faith continue to shape our future? Lastly, let’s put our faith into action. Each of us will have to decide in what manner we will do that, but my hope is that we will not simply be a spectator as life happens around us. Each one of us has been blessed by God with certain talents, skills and charisms. The glory of God shines when we are fully alive so let’s put our faith into action!