Thomas Paine once said, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.” Of course, he was speaking of the American Revolution–possibly the only revolution in history to ever end well for the people that initiated it. What came of the sacrifices of so many brings us to this day, 241 years later.
This is our opportunity to thank God for this place called the United States of America. To thank Him for all He did in raising up the right people at the right points in history that allowed this nation to become the most powerful one on the face of the earth in such a relatively short period of time. To thank Him for people willing to sacrifice all they had to build this nation, and for those who have died and are continuing to die to secure freedom for future generations.
Unfortunately, many, if not most people won’t think about those generations of patriots as they celebrate what’s now only known as “The Fourth”. In between their picnics, parades and fireworks displays (all great things to be sure), it would be wise if all of us would take the time to read the Declaration of Independence—especially those who have children. Do they— do we really understand what it meant when those 56 men put their signatures to that document? As British subjects, they were committing treason. They were setting themselves—and their loved ones—up for certain hardship and possibly death. It’s important that we not forget this and that the youngest among us hear the stories of these people that they are likely being denied in the public schools of today.
Stories like one of the lesser-known of the Declaration’s signers, Francis Lewis. Not long after putting his name on the iconic document, while he was still away, the British forces were sent to destroy his home in Whiteside, New York. His beloved wife Elizabeth was living there at the time and tried to remain calm as a warship fired on their home. All of their belongings were destroyed and pillaged, and Elizabeth was taken captive. The conditions of her life in captivity were extreme–little food, no change of clothing and no bed. When General George Washington managed to make an exchange of prisoners–it took some time to do so– Elizabeth’s health had deteriorated and she died in 1779 in Philadelphia.
The same fate awaited many of the other signers and their families. Tragically, if students in today’s public schools hear anything about these people, it’s likely to be negative: “rich, white, slave-owners”. It’s possible that if enough young people hear the words of the Founding Fathers—and I’d even go as far back as the pre-founding generation (the Pilgrims)***—they might realize and be humbled at what it took to build the nation.
Younger Millenials and those after them–Generation Z, or Centennials– could be the ones to turn things around again. Maybe, like King Josiah in the Bible, after hearing the words of God’s long-lost Law for the first time, they’ll be moved to tears when they read these words from our Declaration of Independence: “…with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
They’ve had their heritage stripped from them, and many aren’t even aware of it. If or when they ever do look up from their ipads, iphones and video games to realize it, they may be pretty upset at the generations before them for keeping them in the dark. For keeping them entertained but un-enlightened.
They need to know that the United States of America is still the last best hope for freedom for people from all over the world, even in our current circumstances, which admittedly aren’t good. It would do us all good to keep in mind the words of people like Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian evangelical minister and author who spent 14 years in a Romanian prison for his faith. In 1967, he called America the hope of every enslaved man, and reminded Americans of a truth that may be even truer now: that freedom-loving people all over the world are counting on us not to let the flame of liberty burn out. Wurmbrand said: “I have seen fellow prisoners in communist prisons beaten, tortured, with 50 pounds of chains on their legs—praying for America…that the dike will not crumble; that it will remain free.”
With that said enjoy the festivities—but take time to remember. Happy Independence Day!