I have always loved the Fourth of July. As a student of Early American History, I especially like revisiting the events surrounding the Declaration of Independence and framing of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the remarkable men and women who were able to set aside their differences long enough to come together to birth a brand new Nation. Amazing! And a lesson for us all, today.
Some would say that the 18th Century was so long ago, and times have changed so very much, that it doesn’t make sense to think anything about Early America would be relevant to us, now. However, that is completely wrong. True, technology, science, architecture, and other disciplines have advanced – but in many ways, they have advanced to what they are today because of the innovations developed by people like Benjamin Franklin “way back” in the 18th Century. Political Science and Economics have certainly churned out many more “theories” of societal and commercial organization since John Locke, Thomas Paine, and others penned their own. But even these can trace their roots back to “older times,” in some cases even farther back than the mid- to late-18th Century.
We might think that our present day accomplishments are amazing – but consider how, without the “modern” technology we now have, medical advances, and conveniences such as the Internet and automobiles, our Nation was settled, organized, and established! If our Founding Fathers and Mothers could do all that they did in their day without modern plumbing, air conditioning, hospitals, and refrigeration, well, perhaps our accomplishments need to be put in a little more humble perspective.
And as for the religious roots of this Nation, well, I cringe when I hear people say that America was not built on faith. True, there were different and sometimes conflicting varieties of believers (and superimposed upon the indigenous peoples’ practices, too, sometimes). But this entire Nation from the beginning, was steeped in faith, God, belief, and a sense of morality that I hope we do not lose. From Franklin to Jefferson to Lincoln, the “greats” of our country might have individually held different beliefs from any given organized religion. But they all believed in and nurtured relationships with God.
If we lose sight of our history, we risk becoming overly eogtistical. And when we take on that cloak of superiority, the feeling that we do not need God or anything else besides one another to tell us how things should be, we truly risk tripping over our own fallibility and flawed humanity and not truly advancing. But when we learn about how things were then, how people thought, behaved, lived, and what they believed, we see how important it is to connect through the centuries, not disconnect – and to keep faith. We can make our world better knowing the mistakes of the past – and also the incredible, inspiring successes that come from people striving to do good for a greater purpose.
Successes like this wonderful Nation – blessed, good, beautiful, and, yes, formed through faith.
A very happy Fourth of July to you!