Celebrating Freedom

Happy Fourth of July! Many of you will spend the day at barbecues and beaches, or celebrating in some other way that emphasizes fun and summer. The rocket’s red glare of fireworks is a staple of the day. My wife and I will attend church in the morning, then visit a friend in Manhattan. He just broke a bone in his foot this week, so instead of strolling around the city finding things to do and sites to see (as we usually do when we visit him), we will probably just hang out in his apartment all day. Joyce and I will probably view the fireworks display in the city before returning to Long Island.

In the midst of it all, we need to keep in mind why we celebrate the Fourth of July. Our nation’s Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence around July 4, 1776 (it took several days to gather all the signatures). They took a stand against a tyrannical government and demanded liberty.

It would be prudent for us to read these words again. We occasionally hear people talk about what America is all about, only to find out that such people do not know the core principles that led to our nation’s founding.

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….

It is true that our nation has not always lived up to those ideals. For much of America’s history, “all men are created equal” seemed to have the hidden disclaimer, “If their skin is light enough, that is.” However, these are values that have driven our great nation, and led us to often rise above our past mistakes.

Today, though, the values inscribed in that Declaration are rapidly being lost. Many Americans live as though the Declaration promises us the rights to “liberty and happiness.” Well, it protects our right to life, but not everybody’s. Those who are an inconvenience—the unborn, the severely handicapped, the elderly—well, they’re better off dead, aren’t they?

If we hope to restore America, we must restore a basic belief in the dignity of the individual. As a Christian, I am firmly convinced that God Almighty sees you as a human being, in His image, from the moment of conception. Government does not grant you the right to life: God grants it, the moment you are conceived. Government has an obligation before Him to honor and protect that right.

“Liberty” and the “pursuit of happiness” fare no better, no matter how much we emphasize a “do what makes you feel good” lifestyle. Sad to say, both of these inalienable rights are in demise, for a number of reasons. We are all too eager to surrender liberty in the name of security. Let the government take care of us. Let it provide our healthcare and our other needs. While it is at it, let the government tell us what we should eat or drink, how we should discipline our children, or which Bible stories to teach our children.

This morning,  I heard a radio news report about a family that was losing custody of their children. Apparently, their crime was attending a church that believes in faith healing. Granted, some parents have gotten too carried away, thinking God always heals only by miraculous intervention. As a result, some  parents may have done irreparable damage to their children’s health and well-being: perhaps even allowing them to die, refusing to seek medical attention. Maybe these parents were like that; apparently, some children whose parents attended that church had died needlessly. However, it is not just parents who, in the name of “faith,” refuse traditional medical attention  that lose custody of their children.

In recent years, there have been several cases where parents lost custody of their children because they sought “alternative therapies” for their children, because those treatments were more consistent with their religious convictions.

My point here is not to criticize individual parents, but to raise the question: How much are we willing to trust the government and surrender liberty? Many Americans have already surrendered our rights to smoke in restaurants, drink non-pasteurized (raw) milk, refuse to have our children immunized, share a beer with our 18- to 20-year-old children, etc. Are we so stupid that we need some bureaucrats to tell us what is in the best interests of our families? Can a reasonable adult not be allowed to make decisions, even on controversial subjects, about everyday matters of life?

Perhaps we have surrendered these rights because we assume that government has the authority to give them to us. Read that statement from the Declaration of Independence again: “[People] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Government does not give the right to life: God does. The United States Supreme Court had no more right to issue its Roe v. Wade decision than Adolf Hitler did to institute his “final solution” of the “Jewish problem.”

We have a right to life because God is the Giver of life.

We have liberty because Christ has given us liberty to follow Him (read Galatians 5, the entire chapter).

We have the right to pursue happiness within the parameters God has ordained.

Government, the media, academia, etc., do not grant these rights. God gives them. Government has an obligation before God to protect those rights; other cultural elements have a right (at times, even an obligation) to promote those rights.

So, I have begun my Independence Day celebration by exercising one of my favorite rights as an American: the rights of free speech and free religious expression, expressed in the First Amendment of the Constitution. Let us be bold to preserve our freedoms by seeking the One who offers us true freedom.

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