What are YOU celebrating today? The founding of America? Freedom? The brave men and women who have kept us free for over 200 years? A day off from work?
These are all good reasons to celebrate, but let's also celebrate the Declaration of Independence itself. Take some time today to read it. You can do it while you are heating up the grill! It will take you less than ten minutes. Here is its most famous paragraph:
"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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -"
The entire Declaration can be found here: http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/.
Sadly, one of the great divides in America is how relevant the Declaration of Independence is to us today.
Are you among those believe that America has progressed beyond the Declaration's claim of self-evident truth that our freedom and rights come from God? As CNN's Chris Cuomo said in an interview with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore a couple of years ago: "Our rights do not come from God. That's your faith. That's my faith. But that's not our country. Our laws come from collective agreement and compromise."
Does that ring true for you? Do you believe that the Declaration is a beautifully written document of historical significance, but one with little relevance to us today.? Perhaps you embrace its principles of freedom and equality but believe that these are enlightened ideas society has developed and that God has nothing to do with it.
Or are you among those, like me, who believe the self-evident truth of the Declaration is true today and will be true tomorrow. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and those rights further outlined in the U.S. Constitution come to us from God and it is the government's responsibility to protect them.
In America, you are free to believe what you want about God. You are free to not believe in God at all. But America, and its laws, are based upon the premise that God as revealed to us in the Bible and in Nature: God is our Creator; the giver of moral and natural law; the Supreme Judge to whom we are all accountable; and the One on whose Divine Providence we can rely. These are the four references to God in the Declaration. There is no mention of Yahweh, Jesus or Allah. How we worship God, how we understand God is left to each of us. But that God IS, is a fundamental principle of our government.
Which side are you on? Is the Declaration relevant today? Do our rights come from God or government? Is the Declaration, and the principles it upholds, the law of the land or is the Declaration a quaint historical document America has outgrown?
All of the division we are experiencing, the vitriol and violence we see daily, has at its root this question: what is the source of our freedom and our principles - God or man? Our nation is as divided over this question today as it was over slavery. We are in the midst of a civil war of words and protests. I pray that America, the America of the Declaration of Independence, will survive.
Those who seek to separate the Declaration from the Constitution and assign it to "quaint historical document" status are wrong. Dead wrong. The truth is that removing the Declaration from our government's guiding principles is like trying to remove the spirit from a person while leaving the body intact. The result would be a dead body. The American Experiment will end if this trend of removing God from our life together continues.
The Declaration of Independence - all of it - is the law of the land. It is as much the law as the Constitution is and all other law must flow from it. The freedom we celebrate today is given to us by the hand of God, not the whims of government. And we the people must do all that we can to see that it stays that way.
This Independence Day take a minute and think about the Declaration of Independence. As you drink beer, eat hot dogs, wave flags and watch fireworks, know that it is time to choose. Are you celebrating the creation of a document that is dead - or are you willing to fight for one that is very much alive?
And please continue to pray for my sister-in-law Kate. She is making progress but has a long way to go. Thank you!