Monday, July 3, 2017

May the Fourth Be with You!

I can’t help it. Having been born on the 4th of July – a long time ago! – I’m a bonafide “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and I’ve possessed a patriotic spirit for as long as I can remember. So, as another Independence Day rolls around, I’ll again be unfurling the red, white and blue, displaying it with pride.

Our nation is far from perfect – and it seems we’re finding more evidence of that every day – but the foundational values that have undergirded it remain as valid as they were when the Declaration of Independence was written and signed about 240 years ago.

The second sentence in the Declaration, considered one of the best-known sentences in the English language, states the case well: “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.”

For more than 200 years, "Old Glory"
has been casting light into darkness.
It’s being used and abused these days by various segments of society to claim rights of all kinds, as well as entitlements, but it seems to me the key words in this famed statement are “self-evident,” “created,” and “endowed by their Creator.”

There have been countless debates over the religious and spiritual backgrounds of our founding fathers, whether they were Christians, theists, deists, or even agnostics. However, all who signed the document were agreeing to “self-evident truths” that included all men – humankind – having been created, and the rights to which we are “endowed” were established by a Creator. Although many today dispute what this means, “If the first sense makes good sense, don’t look for any other sense,” as someone wisely said.

Principles espoused in the Declaration, and other classic documents known as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, hearken to these assertions. Why else would we even be concerned about individual rights for all – or whether anyone has an opportunity to pursue happiness? As atheist Jean-Paul Sartre asserted, “Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist.” In other words, every man for himself.

It is a sense of transcendent morality – based on unchanging, eternal truths – that enable us to have a determination for what’s right and what’s wrong. Without it, what’s good and right for me can be totally different from what’s good and right for you, and neither of us has a basis for declaring the other is wrong. As another non-believer, John D. Steinrucken acknowledged, “immutable moral laws of secularism” do not exist.

For me, July 4th is an annual reminder that, as our Pledge of Allegiance asserts, we are “one nation under God.” I believe that reality is the sole remedy for the malaise that sadly afflicts our nation today. And yet, beyond being proud residents and citizens of the United States, followers of Jesus Christ are promised far more than that.

As the Scriptures tell us, But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20). Through Christ we can approach our Creator as our heavenly Father: “For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household" (Ephesians 3:19-20).

Whenever I see the red, white and blue of the American flag unfurled against a bright, sunny sky, or hear the Star-Spangled Banner or John Philip Souza compositions like “Stars and Stripes Forever” or the “Washington Post March,” my heart swells with pride for the country where I was raised and have raised my own children.

However, I realize even more that in terms of eternity, our time here is just a blip, a mere moment. Therefore, it’s of far greater importance that we observe the admonition to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2). That’s where our true allegiance should lie.

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