Ask Dr. Land: Should we still celebrate 4th of July amid this mayhem?

Question: In light of all the social upheaval we are currently experiencing, should we still celebrate the 4th of July?

Should we still commemorate and celebrate Independence Day? Absolutely. The 4th of July is about far more than parades, picnics, and gatherings of families and friends.

Independence Day is about defining who we are as Americans. The Declaration of Independence is America’s “reason for being,” it’s sine qua non.

(Photo: The Christian Post/Katherine T. Phan)

A little more than a decade ago I was involved in a very interesting endeavor with the American Assembly, an organization started by President Eisenhower when he served as President of Columbia University in the interim between being Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and being elected president in 1952.

The Assembly brings together people in equal numbers from radically different viewpoints for a very intensive weekend of discussions, debate, and dialogue for the purpose of hammering out a consensus statement of commonly agreed upon principles on a particular topic.

This particular year the subject was the influence of religion on America. On Sunday morning, we assembled together over breakfast to debate on a line by line basis a document prepared from the weekend’s discussions. This particular Sunday morning we spent at least fifteen minutes debating the first line of the 20 page document, which said, “Ever since our founding documents. . . .” The liberals strenuously objected to the plural “documents.” They wanted only the Constitution, not the Declaration, because the Declaration mentions God and appeals to the “Supreme Judge of the world” and “on a firm reliance in the protection of divine Providence.”

In other words, when our forefathers declared their independence from Great Britian, they never intended to declare their independence from God. The Constitution, which is an enabling document, implementing a government based on the principles of the Declaration, does not mention God.

In the sixteenth minute of the debate, I carried the day for the “documents” language when I said, “When President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863, he said, ‘Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation.” If you subtract fourscore and seven from 1863, you get 1776. I say we agree with the “Great Emancipator.” America was born in 1776, and the Declaration of Independence is our first and foremost founding document. A significant majority agreed, and we moved on with “the founding documents,” thus including the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence is without question the defining document of what America is, and more importantly, what she stands for, and what she aspires to be.

And yet, the extreme division of identity politics undergirded by Marxist based critical race theories have emphasized what separates, rather than unites us to the point that many people reject the principles of the Declaration, and even more sadly, many are ignorant and unaware of the Declaration’s principles.

This 4th of July weekend let us all resolve to tell young people the story of America’s founding in 1776, not the foolhardy N.Y. Times driven propagandizing of 1619. Tell America’s true story to all who will listen. It is a wonderful story of the conception and birth of a new kind of country, previously unknown in the world, where you would have government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

The Declaration of Independence is a truly remarkable document produced by a remarkable group of men, providentially gathered together in the British North American colonies, which became the fledgling new nation.

Listen to the stately language of the Declaration:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitled them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

And then they scaled the heights:

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. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . . .

And then after listing the abuses of the British Crown, they proclaimed,

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.

Many of the principles, values, and aspirations enunciated in the Declaration of Independence are currently under direct assault in our society. We must stand up, speak out, and fearlessly defend the foundational beliefs of our country. And, let each of us resolve before our Heavenly Father to preserve our freedoms and pass them on undiminished to our friends, to our neighbors, to our children, and to our children’s children. Let freedom ring!

Have a great 4th of July, my fellow Americans. Happy Birthday America!

Dr. Richard Land, BA (magna cum laude), Princeton; D.Phil. Oxford; and Th.M., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) and has served since 2013 as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Land has been teaching, writing, and speaking on moral and ethical issues for the last half century in addition to pastoring several churches.

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