Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day 2012: A Reflection

Scriptures: Deu. 10:17-21; Ps. 145:1-9; Ro. 13:1-10; Mt. 5:43-48

The Fourth of July - or more rightly, Independence Day - is my favorite national holiday for several reasons. Judging by my physique, one might assume that it has to do with beer and BBQs. (There may be some truth to that - not including my love of fireworks!) But more than any of these celebrations, Independence Day is my favorite national holiday because deep down I am an Idealist; that is to say, I still believe, as flawed as our nation has become, at the heart of our history we stand on principles derived from Faith in God.

This is something I think all of you already know. And we all know that there is real effort to expunge and erase the mention of God in our government. Yet there are two experiences that continue to give me hope - and I remember them every Fourth of July.

One was when I visited Washington D.C. a few years ago. I was particularly struck by the mention of God EVERYWHERE on almost every monument! The Atheistic task to remove the mention and influence of God is (in my humble opinion) impossibly monumental (no pun intended).

But also, I remember a "Fourth" celebration in Elk Grove, CA years ago. At the time the push to eliminate God from the Pledge of Allegiance was raging. At the park, before all the fireworks, the crowd (and it was a BIG crowd) said the Pledge together. When it came to the part - everyone SHOUTED - "One Nation,UNDER GOD..." And this reminds me that it is the American heart that will keep God alive in our Country!

To be honest and fully true to history, I am not a "romantic Idealist" about our Founding Fathers and Mothers; that is to say, that they were so in touch with Faith as to bring down the Kingdom of Heaven in 1776 nor eleven years later at the drafting of our Constitution. They had plenty of faults. It is honest to say many of our Founding Fathers and Mothers were Christian. And their Faith did indeed shape and influence the American Dream of a free and independent government. But, it is also fair and honest to say that many were in fact Deists (or Deistic in their thinking).

Deism - at its heart - holds that God is far off; distant and primarily unconcerned with the running of human affairs. He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ and Holy Scripture; yes, and given us the precepts to which we are to live. Yet, that is also to say that He has given us the rules and stands off to say, "Obey them." The Deistic God is not one to interfere or intervene - something we certainly have come to understand - Our God is NOT like that! Thomas Jefferson - as a Christian Deist certainly thought this way. As he drafted the Declaration of Independence, this was certainly his thinking when he writes:

"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."

"Endowed by their Creator" = That we are created beings. Set in motion and gifted with purpose.
"Certain unalienable Rights" = Ways in which God has established Man in creation. We are made this way and set in motion.

And at the conclusion of the Declaration, he writes:
"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."

"Divine Providence", which goes to show that Thomas Jefferson was only one of a Committee (Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston were the others). Divine Providence means, God still provides protection (is active and involved) to His faithful people.

Our scriptures today are somewhat a challenge to this way of thinking. We are reminded of care for the poor and the needy. Paul reminds us to endure and respect all authority (even the Pagan Rome of his day!) Jesus tells us (as He told our Founding Fathers) "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you... Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

One thing is almost certain in our thinking these days: Politics and Religion go together as well as Nitroglycerin in a paint mixer at the hardware store. But again, today I am an Idealist. I believe that the two are vitally dependent upon each other. One cannot govern humanely without Godly principles - to see things the way God sees them - to strive for the "perfection" Jesus calls us to, even though we know our human faults. After all it is only by His grace and salvation that we have been made perfect!

Politically, let me say just this: It doesn't matter today whether you are Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or whatever... What matters today is that you are BOTH an American and you are Christian. And if you are a Christian, Let it be CHRIST who influences your politics. No matter how you vote, let it be Christ who votes through you. If our country needs redirection and strengthening (and I for one believe it does) let us do this and accomplish this together! Let us in our own ways defend the Ideals of Liberty and Freedom which we cherish. Let us not discount them as "pipe-dreams" but hold onto them. Our nation was founded on these ideals... men and women fought only for the dream of a new and independent nation; believing that the hand and providence of God was with them. Our nation and our Faith still depend upon ideals and dreams!

As we remember our national independence, let us not forget or confuse our utter and complete dependence upon God! Although we need no longer to bow to the King (or Queen) of England, we still must bow to Him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The Freedoms we enjoy today (even beer and BBQs) were paid for by the blood of many - who would gladly join us in our celebrations - but we are made to enjoy even greater joys that come only from Christ!

So I say today, God Bless America, with all pride and dignity. But I also close with this hope and prayer:

Bless God, America... Bless God! Amen.

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