In 1779, the Fourth of July landed on a Sunday. The government changed the celebrations that year to July 5th. I am old but was not around way back then, so I do not know if they were keeping the Sabbath holy or keeping the Independence Day celebrations clear of any religious overtones.
For me, however, the Fourth of July already has religious overtones. Or, more precisely, our independence from England was a long exercise in faith. The Pilgrims who came here were seeking religious freedom. Their descendants were among those who fought in the American Revolutionary War and they were instrumental in developing our democracy, including drafting the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Through this long struggle, the early Americans faith led them to proceed in hope and with perseverance. Theirs was not a perfect and just religion by any means, but at least the early Americans believed in something bigger than themselves.
Now, you may be thinking, “What about the separation of church and state?”Wouldn’t that keep faith out of the Fourth of July celebrations? Most people think that the Doctrine of the Separation of Church and State means that religion should stay out of government. However, the separation of church and state exists to protect churches from government control and to ensure religious freedom. Therefore, religious freedom is inherent in American national freedom.
Furthermore, separation of church and state does not mean that the governing people should be free of values and ethics. One’s faith principles should always inform their decisions, whether it be in government, as a minister, or in the private sector. I want my legislative representatives to understand the Golden Rule and to watch out for a greater good. I want to live in that elusive society where justice reigns for all.
This does not mean that I want my representatives to be all Christian, especially if they are extremists with a hate agenda. All of the world’s faith traditions share several great principles, including (from Oneness: Great Principles Shared by All Religions, Kindle Edition):
- The Golden Rule
- All people are equal in God’s eyes
- The whole world is our family
- We are more blessed to give than to receive
- Heaven is within
- You reap what you sow
- Blessed are the peacemakers
I would be happy to have good representatives from all traditions providing they are people with such principles. Sadly, this is not the case. Selfishness and ambition dominate other values.
But back to the Fourth of July. I intend to include prayer in my celebration of our freedom. I will be praying for clear thinking by leaders and our people. I will pray for all young people in the world that their lives may be guided by great values and principles. I will pray for our planet and it’s healing. And I will pray that all people live in true freedom. I know each requires a large miracle, a miracle as big as American Independence.
- Separation of church and state shrinks outside of schools, experts say (bangordailynews.com)
- Can There be Apolitical Religious Freedom? (bazaarofbeliefs.wordpress.com)
- ‘Constitution Teacher’ Loses Her Mind When Challenged Over Separation Of Church & State (freedomoutpost.com)
- Voices of Faith: What is your understanding of the separation of church and state? (redding.com)