Here it is – Independence Day – our national celebration of America’s historic transformation from a British colony to a sovereign nation in its own right. The Declaration of Independence laid out the rational for the change; i.e.
These conditions providing the justification, and appealing to God to support their cause, the states renounced the government of England and set up shop as an independent nation. England, of course, disagreed and there was a skirmish over the matter.
Most holiday celebrations leave me sad – not because I don’t like a good celebration but because the celebrations so frequently miss the point! I find this true in both religious and secular holidays. In the case of July 4 (assuming we don’t just celebrate another long weekend as an excuse to overindulge in food and booze) we celebrate national independence as a given and take no thought at all about the rationale for that independence. I would be surprised if the majority of our population could quote the first line of the Declaration of Independence much less summarize it. The endowments of God, the larger purposes of government and the gauge by which governments may be deemed legitimate or illegitimate are lost in the process.
Without understanding these core principles in the original organization of America, we do not even really recognize competing theories of governance and human rights. When we don’t know the differences – well, what’s the difference? When ‘independence’ is valued on the basis of ‘indulgence’, liberty becomes license and no longer worth defending anyway. Take a moment between hot dogs and fireworks this July 4 to remember what it’s really about.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church