This past Fourth of July we celebrated the 239th anniversary of the United States declaring independence from Great Britain, then the world’s most powerful empire. The United States is now the world’s most powerful country and a symbol of liberty and justice. There are some things about America that we can be proud of, both from our history and from our current civic life. America was the first constitutional republic when monarchies were common. It was a place for people who wanted freedom and a chance to work hard and make their way to come and start a new life, and the US is still a place of refuge and opportunity for the many immigrants who continue to come here.
Many of the original Founding Fathers were devout Christians, so our Christian heritage is real. Not everyone in 1776 was pious, and there certainly were secular motivations for the American War for Independence. Yet, John Adams, one of Founding Fathers and the 2nd US President, stated, “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” George Washington agreed that “true religion affords to government its surest support.” While many different denominations were followed, most Americans in 1776 professed to be Christians. Overall, the American people were a freedom-loving people, tempered by a strong moral fabric.Americans remain the most generous people in developed nations, according to a survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which reported that voluntary social spending for Americans was 10.2 percent of GDP in 2009, higher than any other of 31 developed countries. Taya Kyle, the widow of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, in recalling what touched her most in the difficult times after her husband’s murder, states, “What I love most about America is…our ability to come together in a crisis, our willingness to set aside differences and work together. Americans have a charitable spirit second to none, and a willingness to put themselves to work for others that leaves me in awe.”
The idealism of the founding era, and the symbol of liberty, freedom, justice, and human rights that America continues to be, is not an excuse to overlook or minimize injustices that occur domestically or dismiss foreign policy mistakes. For example, despite America’s heritage of promoting liberty and justice, slavery remained legal for over 80 years, and for the next 100 years there was a lack of civil rights for ethnic minorities. We need to have the humility to admit that nationally, culturally, and individually we have made mistakes, we are still making mistakes, and there are things we need to be doing differently in our society.
No nation made up of humans can be completely free or completely just, but we should still strive to promote freedom and justice both at home and abroad. We shouldn’t need to apologize for our status as a powerful nation. But we should use it to do good for the world. We should also remember that we don’t have more rights or more value than other human beings who don’t have a US passport. God has blessed our nation, but we need to remember that we are blessed in order to honor God and to bless others, not to feed our egos or conclude that our higher per capita GDP somehow makes our lives worth more than others’.