“Independence Day of the United States, also referred to as Fourth of July or July Fourth in the U.S., is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress declaring that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and no longer part of the British Empire. Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, and political speeches and ceremonies, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States. Independence Day is the National Day of the United States.” (Quote source here.)
Today we are celebrating the 239th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence that declared the original thirteen American colonies as a brand new nation–the United States of America. And a whole lot has transpired since that time: a Civil War, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan, and many conflicts in between and all around the globe. Besides noting the wars, there are also many great contributions that have come from the United States over past two plus centuries of its existence, to include becoming a world superpower after World War II. “To be a superpower, a nation needs to have a strong economy, an overpowering military, immense international political power, and a strong national ideology” (quote source here), and we certainly had all of that after WWII.
While I must admit that I have personally never been a history buff (well, I did take a shining to art history), I just ran across an interesting article about the U.S. Constitution (ratified in 1787) that you might find interesting titled, “Perspectives on the Constitution: A Republic, If You Can Keep It,” (1998), by Richard R. Beeman, Ph.D. In the article, Dr. Beeman states:
“. . . as fragile as America’s federal edifice was at the time of the founding, there was much in the culture and environment that contributed to a national consensus and cohesion: a common language; a solid belief in the principles of English common law and constitutionalism; a widespread commitment (albeit in diverse forms) to the Protestant religion; a shared revolutionary experience; and, perhaps most important, an economic environment which promised most free, white Americans if not great wealth, at least an independent sufficiency.
“The American statesmen who succeeded those of the founding generation served their country with a self-conscious sense that the challenges of maintaining a democratic union were every bit as great after 1787 as they were before. Some aspects of their nation-building program–their continuing toleration of slavery and genocidal policies toward American Indians–are fit objects of national shame, not honor. But statesmen of succeeding generations–Lincoln foremost among them–would continue the quest for a ‘more perfect union.’
“Such has been our success in building a powerful and cohesive democratic nation-state in post-Civil War America that most Americans today assume that principles of democracy and national harmony somehow naturally go hand-in-hand. But as we look around the rest of the world in the post-Soviet era, we find ample evidence that democratic revolutions do not inevitably lead to national harmony or universal justice. We see that the expression of the ‘popular will’ can create a cacophony of discordant voices, leaving many baffled about the true meaning of majority rule. In far too many places around the world today, the expression of the “popular will” is nothing more than the unleashing of primordial forces of tribal and religious identity which further confound the goal of building stable and consensual governments. . . .
“The challenges to national unity under our Constitution are, if anything, far greater than those confronting the infant nation in 1787. Although the new nation was a pluralistic one by the standards of the 18th century, the face of America in 1998 [when this article was written] looks very different from the original: we are no longer a people united by a common language, religion or culture; and while our overall level of material prosperity is staggering by the standards of any age, the widening gulf between rich and poor is perhaps the most serious threat to a common definition of the ‘pursuit of happiness’. . . .
“If there is a lesson in all of this it is that our Constitution is neither a self-actuating nor a self-correcting document. It requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens. There is a story, often told, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’ The brevity of that response should not cause us to under-value its essential meaning: democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.” (Quote source here.)
In 2015 the face of America looks a lot different now then it did when this article was written 17 years ago in 1998. As Dr. Beeman noted in the last paragraph above, our Constitution “requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens” . . . and that “democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.”
In looking back over the past several decades, unfortunately–and all too often–“We the People” have neglected our own duty and left it in the hands of elected officials who often look out for themselves (not all, of course, but enough) and let them run the show. It’s not that there hasn’t been some very vocal private citizens who have marched on, but the general population has been busy securing their own personal futures rather then focusing on the state of the nation as a whole. And now we as a nation are not what we once were.
Personally, I’m not sure how we can fix it or if it can even be fixed at this point in time. On this 4th of July, 2015, I want to reflect on another area we have let slide into the background while often assuming all is well (and I’m writing now to the Christians among us). Americans are known for their fierce independence and love of freedom, such as freedom of speech, but over the past several decades we have been allowing our own “security” issues, such as financial security, interfere in a big way in the life of this nation and often without even realizing it. Greed has a way of chipping away at both freedom, independence, and genuine love for others. And it often makes us selfish and myopic–often “looking out for #1” at the expense of others, and especially God.
I just read a couple of very short devotions for July 3rd and July 4th written by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), in a devotional book titled, “My Daily Pursuit: Devotions for Every Day,” (2013), compiled and edited by James L. Snyder, that I would like to share. I must admit that the first one hit me a bit hard as I was out and about yesterday going to several stores that were very crowded due to it being a national holiday, and a lot of working people were off work and shopping. My own reaction at times–fortunately not often (I’m not a fan of crowds)–was that of what I read in the first devotion below for July 3rd. And the devotion for July 4th is a continuation along that same line of thinking. Each devotion starts off with a verse.
“When they hurled their insults at him [Jesus Christ],
he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.
Instead, he entrusted himself to Him [God] who judges justly.”
~1 Peter 2:23
I am sick in my own heart; sick about myself, about my friends and about the preachers in the ministry today. How utterly self-centered we have become, and yet we talk loudly about glorifying God, and boastfully say, “This is the glory of God.”
How do you know that you are self-centered?
This is very simple. If anybody crosses you, your hackles go up immediately because you are self-centered and self-indulgent. You are very quick to defend yourself against all so-called enemies. Just let anybody cross you, and they will know it immediately.
Christ was not like that. He gave Himself and poured Himself out without one bit of selfishness. He was reviled against but reviled not against His enemies.
Any Christian’s heart that is self-indulgent and self-centered cannot be warmed up. The Christian who is defending himself is one who will never experience a depth of fellowship and communion with God.
Christ loved us; He is our Shepherd. He is our Advocate above, pleading our cause. We are His brethren and He is our God. But the changes of fellowship and sweetness in the saints while they walk on earth are more than just technical changes.
For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written:
“The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”
It is amazing to me how much people allow doctors to push them around. Whatever the doctor says is gospel. Some people’s lives would drastically change if they would obey God as strictly as they obey their doctors. The doctor only influences your health; God influences all your eternity.
Many people have put their spiritual life on a budget and will not spend anything for God unless they can justify it in the columns of a “spreadsheet.” What a cheap carnal way of living, and yet many people do so.
The love of the Lord Jesus Christ was a great, passionate outpouring, causing Him to give Himself completely. He pleased not Himself.
What is wrong with the majority of Christians today is that we are self-pleasers. We live for ourselves. Even though we are saints; even though we are born again and have our marked-up New Testament, the love we have is a calculating and narrow love. It is a love that does not give itself, so how can He give Himself and fellowship with us? Our absolute surrender to Jesus Christ paves the way for Him to pour out His love on us and for us to fellowship with Him.
Over these past six plus years of unemployment I have found myself at times trying to defend myself against what happened to me at that job in Houston (as a note their stock on NASDAQ has been reduced to 7¢ a share). It has taken a very long time to get over it as it has left me unemployment for over six years now and add to it that I’ve been living in hotels for over nine months now that I can’t afford which I have explained in a previous blog post. Sometimes I think that if I just yell loud enough something will change and I’ll finally get to see some justice in my situation. It has been a very long haul, to say the least. And I have to be honest in that I have been shocked over these years to find out how unkind people (and yes, the Christians among us, too) can be when they want to be. And I’ve been shocked at the reaction by the total lack of genuine help I have found when I have sought help from the Christian community. And, I have to admit that there have been times I wanted to walk away from them when their lack of giving a crap was so apparent.
I have often said that I don’t hate anyone, and I really don’t–not even those guys who started this back when I lost that job in Houston. But I have been shocked by the lack of any genuine help over these years when I have sought it out–help in finding a job and now help with just finding a more affordable and far less expensive place to live. Talk is cheap and that’s what I’ve found most people give in abundance . . . cheap talk that goes nowhere, and very little (usually none) action and even less caring. Where is that “Christian Community” I thought would be there when I needed it to be there?
This, of course, is not a condemnation of the entire Christian Community. I realize there are circumstances that I’ve been learning about over these years that are far beyond my control and directly stem from my losing that job in Houston, and that often control others who don’t personally know me. I mentioned in a previous blog post that I became aware of that fact after I interviewed for an Associate Registrar position at a “for-profit” college in Largo, Florida, back in September 2011. In fact, it came up in the conversation I had with the fellow who interviewed me for that position.
While I don’t wish to go any farther into it at this point until more is revealed to me, I do want to say that as a Christian, I realize that no one is perfect, and I am certainly not perfect, nor have I been perfect over these past six plus years. But if we are Christians (as in Community and in Christ) we should not be throwing rocks at each other or making assumptions that we have no right to make or believing gossip for who knows what motives lie behind the gossip.
And I’m here to say I’m done trying to defend myself . . . .
As has been noted by many famous people in our society over the past several decades (in fact, it was a big topic of conversation when I was in graduate school at Iowa State University in 1990-91), civility is pretty much dead, and it appears to be that way in many churches, too, when it comes to people who don’t know or like others yet judge them harshly because of information they received from whatever sources who have their own personal motives and agendas and who are spreading that gossip. The assumptions we make about others we don’t know are often so erroneous that if the truth was known it would be shocking.
With that in mind, and to the Christians in my reading audience, I would like to make the following suggestion. I have no idea how to fix the problems we have in our nation today, and I’m not sure some of them are even fixable at this point in time, but there is one thing we can fix, and we can start fixing it right now but we have to choose to do so.
We need to stop being so “independent” by always looking out for ourselves and what’s in it for us in this life and start being “dependent” on the God we say we believe in and are dependent on yet there isn’t much in our lives that proves that out. We need to stop lying and being deceitful (in even the tiniest of ways) just to fill our own pocketbooks and start reading what Jesus had to say about how we are to live, day by day, hour by hour, and stop with all the excuse-making or listening to the many “Pied Pipers” peddling their wares. If you want to know the truth, read it for yourself. The Bible is still the #1 Best Seller in the World. So get the information first hand. And don’t assume anything just because someone else said it. Let this day be our “Dependence Day” –depending on God instead of ourselves.
And if we can’t do that, there isn’t much hope for the nation or for us. Selfish people only end up destroying themselves in the end. And it doesn’t matter how young or how old one is or where they fit in the social-economic scale in society. Greed kills everybody it touches . . . .
One Nation Under God?
In God We Trust?
Prove it . . .
YouTube Video: “Made in America” by Toby Keith: