By David Thornton
July 4, 1776 was the date of the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the United States. As such, July 4 marks the anniversary of a momentous day in world history and is definitely a day worth celebrating.
It is also appropriate for the Fourth of July to be a day of introspection. Are we upholding the trust of the Founding Fathers? Are we really on the road to making America great again?
In his inaugural address in 1789, President George Washington wrote, “The propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.” Can we honestly say our nation is not disregarding these “eternal rules of order and right?”
Today both sides of the political spectrum seem to prize disorder and crass behavior. In contrast to George Washington, who, according to legend, uttered the famous phrase, “I cannot tell a lie,” political leaders of both parties now seem incapable of telling the truth. Over the past few decades, our politics has become a satire of itself in which outlandish behavior and immature antics rule the day.
Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote, “The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.” But 200 years later, only about half of Americans attend church. Even in red, Bible Belt states with churches located on every corner, most people are not in the pews on Sunday morning.
While most Americans still believe in God, many mistrust organized religion and are ignorant of religious doctrines. As a result, Bible verses are easily taken of context to justify anything and everything. Spirituality has become “cafeteria-style” for many Americans: a little of this and a little of that, regardless of historical evidence, context and doctrine.
The lack of religious understanding has led to many problems in American society. These range from high crime rates to a breakdown in the work ethic to a sharp increase in out-of-wedlock births. These factors and more contribute to out-of-control entitlement spending and a skyrocketing national debt. A vicious cycle of entitlements and broken families is breaking federal and state treasuries.
To an extent that seems greater than almost any point in our history, with the exception of the War Between the States, Americans are so at odd with each other that partisans of each side can scarcely speak to each other. In many cases, it seems that right and left barely speak the same language.
“Compromise” has become a dirty word as both the right and left insist “My way or the highway.” Elements of both the right and left, from California to Texas, are ready to call the Union quits and go their separate ways.
America is in trouble. And our decline is beyond our capacity as mere mortals to reverse. Political leaders can’t make America great again. Neither are top-down economic policies the solution for a cultural decay that began with a national rejection of the God who made us great to begin with. We need to realize the spiritual dimension of America’s problems and recognize that spiritual problems cannot be solved by political policies.
Like the ancient state of Israel, America was created to fill a role in the world. With God’s blessings came prosperity and power. It became easy to assume, however, that America’s greatness was due to America itself. Success caused many in Israel and America to turn away from the true source of their greatness. The result is that greatness is being lost.
Tocqueville also wrote, “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” Freedom requires that people be responsible for themselves and that they have the morals to maintain peace and justice without the presence of a police state. It is difficult to establish an objective morality without an objective God.
If we truly want to make America great again, look away from Washington and the White House. Don’t focus on the political parties and their platforms. Don’t expect salvation from political leaders.
America’s salvation can only come from the Divine Providence that made her great in the first place. Focus on God, spreading the Gospel and doing God’s will in your community. Pray for national revival and America can be made great again from ground up.
As we sing “God bless America” this Independence Day, we should also acknowledge our individual and national sins and implore from our knees, “God save America.” Only he can.