Alright, I admit it: the first memories that come to mind this Fourth of July are watermelon, corn-on-the cob, hot dogs, and fireworks. I look forward to all those things as I pen these words, eager to be at home in St. Louis with mom and the family.
But, more noble recollections readily surface as I think back: Mass in the morning, with our Boy Scout Troop as the color guard, and America the Beautiful bellowed out by a congregation usually reserved about singing; putting the flag up at home; and, especially, listening to our neighbors sooner-or-later proclaim, “God bless America,” and observe how fortunate we are to be citizens of the Republic celebrating its birthday.
As I got older, I thought a lot about independence. Politically, a real gift, free from any oppression or tyranny, as our country liberated itself from a crown far away, an independence defended bravely through the decades, even by most of the men, like dad, who gathered for the neighborhood celebration, when I was a kid, a liberty never to be presumed or taken for granted.
But, an earthly independence that allowed us to believe that any independence from God was dangerous. To acknowledge God’s dominion over us is, in fact, the foundation and guarantee of our national freedom. To brag about an independence from the Lord and to disregard His law is, in fact, the quickest way to squander the political liberty we savor and toast on the Fourth of July.
There is a God and we are not He! His way, not our way, is the path to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
So many folks ask me, “What is wrong today? Why do we seem astray?”
My reply is always the same: because we have forgotten God and His commandments. No wonder that “I am the Lord Thy God! Do not place other ‘gods’ before me!” is the first of His ten commandments.
No wonder “freedom of religion” is the first of those placed first in the Bill of Rights.
When we play god; when we presume divine prerogatives of sovereignty over life and death; when we ignore, forget, disregard, or snicker at faith and religion, our independence is in peril.
They asked Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, “Is God on your side?” He responded, “I’m more committed to making sure I’m on His.”
Independence from tyranny, oppression, servitude, and injustice is worth shooting off Roman candles.
Independence from God invites a slavery to a willful self, to whims of the times that fade quicker than a sparkler, and to sin. God save us!
So, we celebrate independence by acknowledging our utter dependence upon a God who has indeed “shed His grace” on us!
Happy Fourth of July!