A Watershed Moment

America celebrates another birthday this week. It's time to hoist the flags, strike up the bands, and let the fireworks begin. I get a thrill every time I hear the cannons blast that rousing finale of the 1812 overture. And I get a lump in my throat whenever I join in singing “America, America, God shed his grace on thee . . .” Indeed, God has blessed America. This nation, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, has endured 224 years. So it's only fitting that we wish Happy Birthday to the oldest constitutional republic on earth. But all is not that well in our land. When Thomas Jefferson penned the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence, he deliberately appealed to the Creator. He acknowledged an overriding obligation to "Nature and Nature's God." And he understood that ordered liberty is not just a subjective preference, but a divinely ordained condition for which human beings are designed. Over the last few decades, however, legions of skeptics have mounted a massive assault on these “self-evident truths.” In prestigious law schools, in the halls of government, and especially in the Supreme Court, God is often banished from public conversation. If a public school teacher introduces Jefferson's ideas and language into the classroom today, she likely will be called on the carpet—maybe fired. This assault on God in public culture severely damages our democracy. If God is thrown out of our history, we lose our basis for believing that individuals have rights and dignity. In an empty universe, we have no meaning, no value. Without God there are no unalienable rights, and no certain proof that liberty is better than tyranny, or life better than death. Everything is a matter of opinion. The references to God in the Declaration of Independence provide a foundation for a moral argument within civil society. And moral truths pervade our founding documents from beginning to end. Without God as the source of all those moral principles, the public square would quickly revert to the law of the jungle. Brutish power would prevail. The weak, the unborn, the elderly, and the gravely ill could be quietly terminated. As much as I enjoy the anthems and the fireworks, more is called for this Fourth of July. We need to confess our moral failures and our national sins. We need to repent of the lies that justify killing innocent babies and the elderly. The road to renewal begins on our knees. And it's there that we hear soul-searching questions from God himself, asking: “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? . . . Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82: 2,4). Our nation's founding document declared independence from Britain, but, with equal fervor, declared dependence upon the Lord of history. Expressing “firm reliance on the Protection of divine Providence,” the signers committed the American experiment to their Maker. The Spirit of 1776 was reverence and trust. So as we mark this solemn occasion, let us seek a rebirth of true liberty, which is possible only when governed by divine law. For, without God, we can have no justice for all at all.


Chuck Colson



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