Since I was a child I have loved celebrating the Fourth of July. From age six, I understood that Independence Day celebrated the birth of our nation. I knew that on July 4, 1776, a group of men, representing thirteen British colonies, gathered together to formally declare those colonies to be a new, independent nation. On that day, the Signers of the Declaration of Independence became enemies of the King of England , , , risking everything they had for the cause of freedom. As I grew I learned:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator . . . . ”
The Fourth of July was a day of remembrance, culminated by waving sparklers wildly with my brother, cousins, neighbor kids or whoever else wanted to join in on celebrating the best nation on earth. For me, taking hold of one (or even two) of those sparklers took a bit of daring–even though I never got burned, I dreaded the possibility. However, even then, I knew the Fourth of July was about far more than fireworks–that our security rested in the knowledge that we were “one nation, under God.”
As years became decades, change came and secularism grew. Celebrating the Fourth became more sophisticated–filled with parades and activities having little to do with honoring the sacrificial courage and vision of the Signers before their Creator. Instead, we became obsessed by the “wow-factor” of fireworks that we critiqued from year to year.
Sadly, the critiquing did not stop there–not by a long shot. In more recent years, as American culture has become increasingly secularized, the notion, “that all men are created equal . . . endowed by their Creator” has been marginalized by many as “meaningless rhetoric.” In an article posted on CNN’s website by Mark Edwards, “Was America Founded As A Christian Nation?” (July 4, 2015), five history professors from universities around the United States shared their perspectives pertaining to the roots of American democracy. Before presenting the five perspectives, Edwards extended a second question, “Why do so many people think the country’s Christian history is so important?” Sadly, the second question was largely ignored as the majority of the respondents denied any significant Christian influence in the formation of this nation. Such a suggestion was denigrated in the article to be, “a myth” or, as one respondent suggested, “an invention of corporate, Christian America.”
After reading the article, the one phrase that resonated with me was, “meaningless rhetoric”–that best sums up much of its content. Although there were a few interesting insights to be gained, the bulk of it struck me as arrogant and short-sighted. Thankfully, I did not have to look very far to find an answer to the question of why this nation’s Christian history IS so important. I found the succinct insights of Christian writer and speaker, Ravi Zacharias, (posted on his Facebook page, dated July 3, 2015) thought provoking and helpful:
“America may not be a Christian nation per se, but only the Judeo-Christian worldview could have framed such a nation’s ideas and values: “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights.” No other religion or secular assumption can affirm such a statement except the Judeo-Christian worldview. But today that very worldview, on which our systems of government and law are based, is expelled from the marketplace.”
This next part gives the chilling answer to WHY remembering our Christian roots is so important:
Democracies that are unhinged from all sacred moorings ultimately sink under the brute weight of conflicting egos. Freedom is destroyed not only by its retraction; it is also devastated by its abuse.”
The phrase, “the brute weight of conflicting egos” hit me especially hard, as I reflected on our government’s inability to legislate anything of substance, largely because of the conflicting egos on both sides of the political aisle.
But we dare not think of secularism as only political . . . it is far more personal than that. Secularism, in the ultimate sense, denies God and elevates man even as it denigrates the value of people–the unborn, the frail or those considered too flawed to live. The fruit of a secularized, Godless society? In what is believed to have been his last known letter, written before he was beheaded, the Apostle Paul warned:
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money,
boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful,
unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control,
brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God . . .”
II Timothy 3:1-5
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When I started working on this post, I had no idea of the direction it would take. It was the morning after watching my grandchildren, initially tentative, and then boldly waving sparklers in their backyard, that I was reminded of my own childhood and how there is so much more to the Fourth of July than fireworks. As I finish this post, I am struck by the unknown challenges we face, and how very much we need the mindset of the Signers of what became a great nation. They were imperfect men of courage, who saw themselves as created beings, accountable to their Creator.
The challenge Christians face in this ever darkening world that only knows the man-made “rush” of fireworks is: Will we courageously demonstrate the steadfast Light of God’s love and mercy to a world in need of a Savior?
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full . . . .
I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me . . . .”
John 10:10 & 14
All to His Glory!