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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fourth of July: What about God?

Thomas Jefferson (by Peale, 1800)
When referring to the Second Day of July, 1776 (which is the actual day on which the original Declaration of Independency was proclaimed), John Adams wrote this in a letter to his beloved Abigail:  I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.  It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty…

Although Adams did go on to also list “Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations” as other suggested modes of celebration, somehow the Acts of Devotion later got lost in this “Pomp and Parade” shuffle.  Freedom of religion is nowadays often interpreted as freedom from religion, and barbeques trump worship almost every time.

But let’s look back at the wording of the written document that followed Adams’ letter to Abigail:  the Declaration of Independence.  Whereas people tend to remember such lines as “all men are created equal” and “certain unalienable Rights,” they tend to forget the clear references as to Who it is that did all this creating and endowing.

A careful review of the Declaration of Independence reveals a number of religious phrases that form the bedrock of this document.  They read as follows:  to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them…  they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…  appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…  with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.

It is important to note that these are not specifically Christian references.  However, they most certainly are specifically religious ones.  The ensuing “wall of separation between church and state” seems therefore meant to protect minority religions rather than to downplay or eliminate them.

After all, it was also Jefferson who asked:  Can the liberties of a nation be though secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of god?


Copyright July 1, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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