Happy Birthday (this Thursday we celebrate our Declaration of Independence)! We’re aging – together – within a unique experiment.
Wow; we’re 243. It’s an age when we – nationally – are at risk of some corporate dementia. While we wave flags and attend parades, it’s tempting to forget where we came from.
It was 93 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. What would he have to say – at that occasion – that might capture the imagination of history?
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.
Modern political voices are as likely to disavow our past than to declare it. Efforts to separate the Christian faith from America’s foundations have resulted in a contemporary mindset that treats biblical truth as toxic residue rather than as essential to our identity.
Ask Calvin Coolidge, and he’ll tell you that the foundation laid by a biblical Christian faith is the foundation for American-styled democracy. Here we are, 15 presidents later, and candidates are making their case to become #46. How many are echoing the sentiments expressed by #30?
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?