“We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.
An observation-the men who signed the declaration were certainly not feminists and some of them were lukewarm to God, personally, though there She/He is, in the first sentence of the first act to declare a free nation.
From the beginning this nation has abided people of faith and those who eschew it. Isn't that how it should be? Tolerant. Though in our more enlightened self, we've come to recognize the sins of our founding.
We would be more free, more just, and better in all ways if we would have started differently with native citizens and their beliefs, and if we had not permitted Africans to be made slaves.
At a time, and in a world that was cruel and classist, imperfect though we were, we sought a more perfect union.
No one is required to practice a faith, but the freedom to exercise a belief is essential to a free society. It is a principle this nation was built upon.
A droll and dear friend, a retired Judge, who presided over the process of American justice and who is a student of philosophy, tells people he is a Frisbeterian. He says when a Frisbeterian passes, their soul goes into a frisbee stuck on a roof some place.
From the beginning we've had divisions but despite the differences, our Providential parent was put at the foundation.
The constitution, the very bones of our republic, is signed under the sentence
“...the 17th of September in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred eighty seven….”
This is not an exposition on belief, faith or religion. This is to serve as an understanding that an active allegiance to a Divine power is a keystone to our system of government and it has implications as to how we are as a nation.
My use of the word God in this post is code for the sacred beliefs of all, however it is said or left unspoken, imagined, known, practiced or worshipped. It is the human equivalence of an understanding of the Divine intelligence to which humans have fidelity and devotion.
There is, nor ever was, a unanimity. While Europeans came to these shores for religious freedom, they had different ideas.
Puritans who made Massachusetts Bay their home set up religious communities based on their view of the Bible. They were, however, not friendly to anyone who had a different view.
At the same time Rhode Island was established for the very purpose of religious freedom. In fact Rhode Island welcomed everyone, faith or no faith and it didn’t matter. Quakers and Jews, who had a hard time elsewhere, were free to practice faith as they wished. People with my judge friend's sense of whimsey would not have burned at a stake in Rhode Island.
Coexistence, cooperation, and mutual respect, work.
Bringing this back to the premise, the nation has been built by diversity of people and beliefs, indeed! But always there was a central principle; what we do, how we live, how we treat each other is based on the idea we live in accordance with how God would expect. “…one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” We swear to tell the truth, “so help us God.” The oath of office is sworn on a Bible.
a kind of secular sacredness
Over the centuries, the common center of our experiment in democratic republic has been the power we know by many names, according to varied faiths and beliefs.
We have become more diverse, multi-cultural and our understanding has more flavor and a diversity of accents.
While people have been free not to practice a faith, we all have lived according to our constitutional belief in the source of faith, and the even more ancient texts that are at the core of the belief of the major religious groups.
Jews, Christians and Muslims share the Ten Commandments that are the foundation of law and principles of behavior. Freedom, justice, equality, divinely ordained if you will, for believers and those who are not. Everyone is to be treated the same.
So how are we doing? What happened to our Divine guardian in the last four years or so? Or in the last 50 years? Did someone mug him/her? Did God get fed up with us?
Or, have we abandoned the nexus of our nation? Do we merely purport the faith? Do we walk the talk or merely talk it?
Even those who are agnostic or who claim to be atheist are free to think as such, thanks to our faith in government and the founding document that propounds the importance of living a good life by the measure of a higher standard than merely the doings of we human bipeds.
As a nation do we put those values first? Or have we turned "God" into an ideological or political tool?
I heard a good preacher say, "God is not swayed by our rhetoric or political speechifying?" The principle of strength upon which we premise our right to be a nation, and the guide for the manner in which we will live, has to do with a higher order of things, a power that is just and that knows our intentions.
- What is a nation with a Divine heritage to make of people who do not believe the Covid virus is real?
- Or who flaunt precautions that protect others, including those most at risk?
- Or who do not believe the election results?
- What does a Godly people think of children pulled away from parents, and forced to sleep on aluminum blankets in cages?
- Or of those who approve of political behavior that causes harm, fosters division and hate?
- How can a government vested in a Holy Creator fail to legislate assistance to millions who are unemployed, or the 1 in 4 American children who are food insecure, or people who must decide between food, or rent, or medicine?
- How is a nation under God to react to a man who desecrates honor, tradition, peaceful transfer of power, undermines belief in our system, perpetuates credibility destroying mass lies? And what are to do about those adore him and believe those lies?
a nation endowed
A people who call down a God of the ages, who invoke that divine claim, who swear allegiance, and who promise to navigate by virtues of a holy benefaction must answer true- how are we going to rehabilitate? How are we going to bridge the divide? How do we find a truth or settle on fact?
Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation is a start.
He suggested Americans do "humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience...and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union."
Healing the wounds of the nation will be hard and challenging, but it is noble and honorable work. It is something every citizen can and should do.
In future posts we'll take a closer look.
In our previous age of division, Lincoln drew strength from the hymn Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory. There are lines in the second verse that push us to be honest about our commitment to truth and justice
"God has sounded for the trumpet that shall never call retreat and is sifting out all human hearts before the judgement seat..."
Truth matters. Justice will prevail. It is in the nations DNA.We are the agents.
Stay well. See you down the trail.