Well here we are, right smack dab in the middle of the summer - and a holiday weekend to boot. Hope you all are enjoying the Fourth of July weekend. And I hope you don't mind if I interrupt your holiday festivities to present a short history lesson. After all, once in a great while all of us could stand a little reminder as to why we are grilling all those hamburgers and hot dogs. Besides - school starts in about three weeks, so I need to get back in the swing of things, historically speaking.
We celebrate our nation's birthday on the fourth day of the seventh month because that is the date that Thomas Jefferson wrote at the top of the Declaration of Independence, which, I suppose, is as close to a birth certificate as our nation has. It is a little ironic because historians will tell you that the unanimous vote to declare independence from Great Britain actually came on the second day of the month, not the first. In fact, John Adams, one of the signers of the document, wrote to his wife Abigail in a letter dated July 3, 1776, that "The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha in the history of America. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other and from time forward forever more."
Wow! Sounds like John Adams was a visionary. We pretty much celebrate the holiday - albeit on the 4th and not the 2nd - pretty much the way the man who become our second president and a 21st century mini-series subject described. But what about the fact that one of our Founding Fathers attributed the liberty and independence that the American Revolution would bring to God Almighty. Imagine that!
But wait a minute. Don't we sort of shy away from God these days when we talk about the affairs of our country? And don't people try to claim that the separation of church and state prohibits us from even hinting that God has any place in the affairs of our government?
I know, I know. Here I go, spoiling a perfectly wonderful holiday weekend by talking about religion and politics. Sometimes I just can't help myself.
But as long as we are talking about historical documents, maybe we ought to take a closer look at the Declaration of Independence itself, since we are celebrating its signing right about now. Thomas Jefferson - whom a lot of folks like to claim was agnostic - scattered references to God Almighty throughout the entire document.
In the very first sentence he wrote about the "laws of nature and of nature's God." The very first sentence! And in the second sentence he wrote, in probably the most well known phrase in the whole declaration, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights ... " Creator. Capital C. According to Jefferson we don't receive our rights from the government, but from God. The same God that many revisionists claim Jefferson did not believe in.
Later on in the Declaration of Independence, after he had listed all the grievances the people of the colonies had against the Crown, TJ - I'm sure that's what all the guys with the powdered wigs called him - wrote "We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America" - has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? - "in general Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world ... "
Supreme Judge of the World. There he goes. Talking about God again. Asking God to ordain the undertakings of our brand new nation. And finally, "for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
In the beginning our nation's leaders relied on Divine Providence for protection, and if our republic is going to last another 233 years - or another 33 years, for that matter - we'd better get back to relying on Divine Providence again, instead of pretending that God was never meant to be a part of the equation in our government.
I think the whole notion of the separation of church and state was meant to keep the government out of religion, not to keep God out of the affairs of our country. Of course that's just my opinion - but mine is the only opinion I am qualified to express.
The Declaration of Independence also contains a list of about 25 or 30 grievances the colonists had against the King of England and Parliament. Ironically, most of those usurpations of our personal liberties would pale in comparison to those that we readily cede to our government today. But who knows, maybe this will be the year we start to stand up for our personal freedom again - and the year we invite God Almighty back into our nation's affairs. Couldn't hurt.
Happy Independence Day, y'all - and God bless America.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.