July 5, 2011
While delivered a “day late,” this weekly piece is time-stamped for July 4th, 2011. In America, we’re celebrating the 235th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence, which is deemed America’s “birthday.”
Wow; we’re 235. It’s an age when we – nationally – are at risk of some historic dementia. While we wave flags and attend parades, it’s tempting to forget where we came from.
It was 85 years ago – in Philadelphia, at the event marking the 150th Anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence – when Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, gave what many believe was the finest statement about the Declaration ever made by a President. He was often dismissed as a man of few words; he didn’t specialize in speeches. Consider his comments about the integration of Christian faith and America’s origins:
When we take all these circumstances into consideration, it is but natural that the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence should open with a reference to Nature’s God and should close in the final paragraphs with an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world and an assertion of a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Coming from these sources, having as it did this background, it is no wonder that Samuel Adams could say "The people seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven."
No one can examine this record and escape the conclusion that in the great outline of its principles the Declaration was the result of the religious teachings of the preceding period. The profound philosophy which Jonathan Edwards applied to theology, the popular preaching of George Whitefield, had aroused the thought and stirred the people of the Colonies in preparation for this great event. No doubt the speculations which had been going on in England, and especially on the Continent, lent their influence to the general sentiment of the times. Of course, the world is always influenced by all the experience and all the thought of the past. But when we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence we are not required to extend our search beyond our own shores. They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live. They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit.
We’ve been hearing a lot about the “Arab Spring;” today, we’re targeting Gaddafi in Libya with the fanciful misbelief that “revolution” in countries occupied by Muslim majorities will embrace a political system that will mirror the American model…
Ask Calvin Coolidge, and he’ll tell you that the foundation laid by a biblical Christian faith is the foundation for American-styled government. Here we are, 14 presidents later… and our recognition of our origins has all but disappeared, and the delusion that our system would exist – or, continue – apart from a consensus founded on a Christian worldview is now ingrained in the repetitive rhetoric.
America, America, God shed His grace on thee… I wonder if He will continue to do so, if we stop recognizing Him as our Firm Foundation?