SAN JOSE, July 8, 2014 – In Philadelphia on July 8, 1776, the people rang the Liberty Bell to gather the populace into the square where they read aloud the words of the Declaration of Independence.
These words enshrined in the Declaration are indeed quite powerful words today. However, despite the ideals and fiery intent within the nation’s founding document, are they still relevant?
In his original draft, Jefferson had written: “We hold these truths to be sacred and divine…” Benjamin Franklin made the revision to the broader and more widely acceptable ”self-evident” version. To Jefferson, his words were sacred and divine, but even so, for the signers, the truths in the document were at least self-evident. But are those truths still evident in America today?
One of the deepest and most fundamental truths embedded within the words of the Declaration of Independence was the belief that there was a Creator. However, in the scientifically advanced and highly evolved, technology-addicted contemporary culture, this belief is often looked upon as quaint and quite old-fashioned. It is a belief that can be readily disparaged as the ‘enlightened’ in American society today are much too ‘intelligent’ to believe in God. Today in America, even to bring such a belief to the surface of public scrutiny can be somewhat controversial, and can be categorized as an act of career ending suicide for those seeking political office because there now exists a strong intolerance for those who believe, or those who adhere to a faith.
Unfortunately in America today, there are many who not only cannot perceive the existence of a Creator, or who cannot accept the existence of God, but also cannot tolerate those who do. But even more importantly, there are many in public office who hold this prejudice, yet at the same time, give lip service to the value of ‘equal rights,’ or publicly condemn the evils of racism. The hypocrisy is quite glaring to those who have a solid grounding in good common sense. It is not a serious problem when it is expressed by religious bigots within the general society because people with a deep sense of fairness and sincere tolerance see such human ugliness for what it is. However, when such religious intolerance is manifested in governmental positions or policies, it is essentially discrimination.
Not only are governmental policies that target religious organizations a legalized means of discrimination, it is a violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. For those who claim to be impartial observers, one can simply read the storm of comments flying back and forth throughout the country in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby to gain a sense of the animosity towards religion or those who seek to proudly profess their faith. Over the centuries, America has slowly been transformed into quite a secular society, but today there exists, more than ever, an overt antipathy towards religion in general and toward people of faith despite the oaths offered to defend citizen’s personal liberties.
Along with the antipathy and outright intolerance within some sectors of the government, there exists a pervasive concept of what is and what is not politically correct. The secular based major media outlets have much to do with this more recent trend. Thus, those who seek unofficially to enforce political correctness have instilled timidity and fear among those who are religious, no matter what faith they represent – Christian faith, Jewish faith, Muslim faith, or whatever. The secular society has also increasingly become intolerant and overtly oppressive, which tends to muzzle or muffle those who hold genuine faith in God. Yet today, politicians who are religious are quite careful in their choice of words in speeches and quite cautious with words in public.
While the signers of the Declaration of Independence boldly affirmed their “reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” as written in the concluding paragraph, as well as making an “appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world for rectitude of …intentions,” many political leaders today do not share such an accountability to God for their words and deeds.Among those today who cannot accept the existence of a Creator, are the agnostics who simply claim an ignorance of such a spiritual reality, as well as quite many atheists and materialists who are in outright opposition to anything that has something to do with existence of God. This is their freedom, but with regard to the bedrock founding principles, it creates a fundamental dilemma.
Sadly, the grave danger with this situation is that when leaders do not believe that they are accountable to God for their words and deeds, anything under the sun can and will be done. Indeed, much of the news headlines and media stories about the actions and efforts coming from the halls of Congress these days, reveals that many politicians even ignore the will of the voters, and it seems that many do not honestly believe that they are accountable to anyone. This displays the attitudes of many contemporary politicians that they are not even accountable to the people who elected them, let alone a sense of responsibility before God for their actions. While some believe that they are only accountable to their Party’s leaders (if that), some believe only to themselves.
At the very least, the serious standard of faith established by Jefferson’s Declaration has been seriously undermined in contemporary America. Sadly, an understanding of Divine Providence may no longer exist within the political arena for many who are currently in elected office. Yet, without a deeper sense of responsibility to a higher power, elected officials often do not sense a genuine accountability for their words and deeds. The question that should be asked is who can hold such politicians accountable for their actions? Amazingly, this is much the same reality that the colonists faced with an obstinate and aristocratic king as they considered their options just prior to the outbreak of the War for Independence.
Ultimately, King George III and the Parliament were held accountable for their oppressive deeds. The Founders believed in Divine Providence, and they believed in a purpose for a free nation based upon fundamental principles rooted in the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”In fact, a central core of the beliefs and values that the Founders shared was a commonly accepted faith in the existence of God. They firmly believed that they were accountable to God as they fought to escape a world teeming with tyranny. By the same measure, within such disturbing times as today, Americans need to reflect upon and embrace the ideals and values the Founders forged in the Declaration of Independence.
Especially religious Americans need to reaffirm that the precious gifts of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness still originate from God – not from the machinations of government. Those people of faith need to come out from the closet and reaffirm their relationship with a Creator. A new sense of tolerance, at least among the people of faith, could create a new dimension of a more civil society. Citizens who vote need to scrutinize those begging for votes accordingly. It should not be a nation divided between two major political parties, but united by those who are unafraid to express their faith and their unwavering support of the principles of faith in the words of the Declaration of Independence. Such a display would spark a rebirth of freedom in America.