The July 4th holiday is for most of us a joyous occasion celebrating the birthday of this great nation. A day off work to enjoy family, friends, barbecue, fireworks and festivities lifts our spirits and should remind us "I'm Proud to be an American" as the patriotic ballad proclaims.
But then it's back to work. Back to routine, schedules, stress, demands of life and exposure to the almost nonstop barrage of negativity coming at us in today's world. Let's be honest, it's often downright discouraging and even overwhelming at times.
Without suggesting escapism, might it do us some good if this week we lingered a bit in the good of what this nation represents and has accomplished in the global scheme of things?
What might happen to our families and us if multitudes simply pushed the pause button on the avalanche of depressing news and instead focused awhile on our rich heritage and the incredible achievements that have blessed us and benefited billions around the world?
In the book, The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World, the authors point out that "from the beginning of recorded history until the founding of the American nation, human civilization made relatively little progress. Those who came to the New World in the 1500s and 1600s were still plowing fields behind animals, moving about in ox carts, and hand-weaving cloth the same way they had for thousands of years."
"Then, beginning with Jamestown and Plymouth, something remarkable happened — the human spirit was set free, creativity flourished and experimentation abounded. Americans were learning how to experience freedom. After the proven principles of liberty were institutionalized by the U.S. Constitution in the 1780s, it took less than 200 years before men were walking on the moon!"
With the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, a political achievement unprecedented in human history was launched.
Government was no longer by a monarchy, oligarchy or by tyranny; it was "of the people, by the people and for the people."
A Simple Idea Changed the World
The seminal, revolutionary idea at the heart of America's success was self-government rooted in morality and a virtuous people forsaking selfishness for the common good. They knew their fallen condition but believed people could be redeemed, embrace checks and balances, then govern themselves in our history-making, new republic.
Their divinely inspired purpose was not self-focused but to bless mankind as a "city on a hill" and demonstrate what ordered freedom could bring.
James Madison said: "The happy union of these states is a wonder; their Constitution is a miracle; their example the hope of liberty throughout the world."
This is what is meant by "American Exceptionalism." We're not better than any other people. We are simply prospered by the Almighty as we follow His paths so we can honor Him, serve humanity and inspire others to do likewise.
Jesus said it best when He told us, "For to whom much is given, of him much shall be required. And from him to whom much was entrusted, much will be asked," (Luke 12:48).
Moral Freedom and Creativity
The freedom we have (which can be lost) was never meant to be unrestrained licentiousness. Rooted in religious principal, it was intended to enable individuals to conduct themselves in such a way as to enjoy peace and prosperity, restrain and punish evil, and release each person's creativity and God-given potential.
How has this great "American Experiment" worked? Have our virtuous emphasis and ordered freedom released blessing, helping people throughout the world?
As the book title suggests, in a little over 200 years the human race has made a 5,000-year leap. While honoring other nations' achievements, we should feel mighty grateful for how God has blessed these United States of America and accelerated human progress throughout the entire world through her.
God is first revealed in Scripture as Creator. Our Founding Fathers honored that designation in the Declaration of Independence, "All men are created equal …" Privileged to be co-creators with him, let's celebrate America's inventions and imagine what life would be like without them!
175 of America's Inventions
Free-market economics, harnessed electricity, internal combustion engine, jet propulsion, nuclear energy, automobile assembly-line, telephone;
Sustained air travel, sustained electric light, electronic hearing aid, Franklin stove, lightning rod, catheter, bifocals, cotton gin, refrigeration;
Suspension bridge, fire hydrant, coffee percolator, circular saw, telegraph, sewing machine, dental floss, combine harvester, steam shovel, mason jar;
Ice cream maker, grain elevator, rotary printing press, baseball, volleyball,
American football, basketball, softball, stock car racing, racquetball,
Duckpin bowling, gas mask, dishwasher, inverted microscope, fire alarm box, burglar alarm, jackhammer, electric stove, vacuum cleaner, escalator;
Ironing board, roller skates, motorcycle, denim jeans, silo, urinal, dental drill, sanitary pad, metal detector, electric iron, thermostat, machine gun;
Photographic film, gasoline dispenser, electric food mixer, pay phone, recording gramophone, ballpoint pen, touch typing, tractor, zipper, blender;
Remote control, mousetrap, medical gloves, rechargeable battery, toaster, safety razor, windshield wipers, automatic transmission, flushometer toilet;
Paper towel, electric blanket, electric traffic light, supermarket, bulldozer, tow truck, polygraph, adhesive bandage, cotton swabs, instant camera;
Cheeseburger, garage door opener, power steering, drive-thru, nylon, garbage disposal, ice cube tray, pressure washer, stop sign, Teflon;
Smoke detector, sunglasses, frozen food, electric guitar, radio telescope, trampoline, disposable diaper, digital computer, fluorescent lamp;
Rock 'n' roll, blues and jazz, automated teller machine, deodorant, aerosol dispenser, earthmoving equipment, bazooka, steam locomotive;
Microwave oven, Tupperware, credit card, supersonic aircraft, hairspray, blow dryer, defibrillator, cable television, video game, teleprompter, laser;
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, nuclear submarine, videotape, Spandex, weather satellite, child safety seat, communication satellite, minicomputer;
Computer mouse, balloon catheter, cordless telephone, CD, copiers, GPS,
central heating, handheld calculator, lunar module, Email, laser printer,
Virtual Reality, personal computer, MRI, iPhone, ipad, texting, internet, digital camera, contact lens, DNA computing, tilt-n-roll luggage, voicemail;
Space shuttle, nicotine patch, Heimlich maneuver, drones, scoreboards, whole body scanner, catalytic converter, microprocessor, backpack;
Gas and electric lawnmowers, taser, muffler, flyswatter, cupcake, washer and dryer, air conditioning (In this heat, let's end here but there's lot more!)
Here's the deal: The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor carries a torch held high. She shines a light and conveys an invitation of freedom, virtue and generosity to all the world. May we celebrate our heritage and God-given accomplishments as we reconsecrate ourselves to the ideals upon which we were founded and which God has so richly blessed.