meditations

Sneaking sermons into the Declaration of Independence

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But, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.2 Corinthians 10:17

Is the United States of America exceptional? Is such a statement quantifiably true? Does empirical evidence support such a seemingly audacious and arrogant claim? Let us look at population versus GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The U.S. population is 4% of the world. The U.S. provides 26% of the entire world’s GDP. In a Gallup poll of 1.3 million people worldwide asking three key questions regarding the giving practices of each individual and based on their data, this poll ranks the top five most generous nations in the world in this order: 5 Ireland, 4 Australia, 3 New Zealand, 2 Myanmar and 1 U.S.A.

In 2018, the private U.S.A. citizens donated 427.71 billion dollars. (This number does NOT include taxes being used to fund welfare programs in the U.S. and around the world) Many differing perspectives can interpret this poll in many ways and from many different angles. Regardless of the angle of approach, it is obvious to see that there is something very different and unique about the United States of America.

In this extremely limited treatise, I propose one optimistic consideration that dates back many years. On Independence Day this year, the United States set another world record for having the same form of government based on our Declaration of Independence for 245 years. The average tenure of a governing document during that time frame has been 17 years. Perhaps this stability is one of the roots of the success of the American experience. Alexis De Tocqueville author of “Democracy in America” coined the term American exceptionalism. He also made this statement that has been removed from public awareness that “America is great because she is good,” and that the source of her goodness lies within the pews of the churches in America. (If you perform a google search of this book to which I refer, you will not find these words. That is because the work has been redacted to align with the militantly secularistic scourge that has overtaken so many parts of our society).

Within the same linear thought, a young man named Hezekiah Niles who was the up-and-coming historian of his day inquired of the old man John Adams, 2nd President of the United States, as to who were the most significant people during the founding era? John Adams gave the young scholar a laundry list of significant influencers of the time period. These men were the ones most responsible for influencing the American landscape: Men like the Rev. Samuel Cooper, Rev. Jonathan Mayhew, Rev. Charles Chauncy and Rev. George Whitefield. He also listed men like Rev. Absolom Jones, Rev. Richard Allen, Rev. John Marrant and Rev. Lemuel Haynes.

Why would John Adams point back to all these preachers as being noteworthy and significant? The answer is that if you examine the Declaration of Independence, it begins with 161 words that set forth six principles and 27 grievances listing how those six principles were being violated by Great Britain. John Adams knew that every one of those six principles and 27 grievances had been preached in American pulpits by the men listed above prior to 1763. John Adams made the case to this young historian that the principles listed in the Declaration of Independence were a summary of the sermons delivered for the 20 years leading up to the Revolution. The six principles and 27 grievances were the foundation that established the Constitution of the Republic. The principles were based on Biblical concepts that delineated God’s gift to all of human kind. The 27 grievances were examples of how these God given freedoms were being ignored and abused.

I agree that we should never be arrogant, boastful or audacious as Christian citizens of the United States of America. That is not Christ-like. Jesus taught us to show mercy and humility and to serve others above ourselves. But, Paul tells us that if we boast, to boast in the Lord. I use this opportunity to declare that every success and triumph that has ever been given to the United States is the gift of a loving God. All that we have, and are, is a gift from above. Material blessing is as useless as the chaff that leaves your combine when you are harvesting beans in a dry field. The gift that matters most is the one you can never earn by thoughts, words or deeds. Earthly citizenship is irrelevant. We have all been made citizens of the heavenly kingdom because of the one and most important sacrifice ever offered: Jesus on the cross. Remember this from CS Lewis in Mere Christianity, “God does not love us because we are good, we are good because God loves us.”

(Historical references taken from the Founders Bible: the origin of the dream of freedom. Written by David Barton, Brad Cummings and Lance Wubbels)

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