Family, Fireworks and our Founding Fathers

Family, food, fireworks, fun in the sun… I particularly enjoyed this year’s 4th of July celebration, as it was the first time in a few years that I was actually in the country to celebrate!

In the midst of my hotdog eating and succulent watermelon indulgences, I began to wonder about the lives of our country’s so-called ‘founding fathers.’ What were the conversations that went on around the table as they signed their names to the document on that fateful summer day that would forever change the world?

To quench the thirst of my curiosity, I did a bit of digging around on the internet and discovered some words written by John Adams in a letter to his wife Abigail, a day before the Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress in 1776:

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more…

Prophetic words indeed eh? Over two hundred years later and Independence Day looks (almost) identical to his prediction:

  • Celebrated as a great anniversary festival? Check.
  • Solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations? Check, check, check. (My family actually managed to squeeze in all of the above over this past weekend. Yes, even guns. And throw in a hoola-hoop contest!)
  • Commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion? If you mean deliverance from work by solemn acts of devotion to hotdogs and cold beverages, then maybe.

All kidding aside, the third point–devotion to God Almighty–hardly characterizes the All-American holiday celebration in most homes. It was so clearly a core value of our founding fathers and the culmination of the signing of the Declaration. Check out the original documents of the universities where the majority of our forefathers studied…

Harvard for example, which churned out a number of our founding fathers–including John Quincy Adams, John Hancock, John Adams, Samuel Adams–had this statement of purpose for incoming students:

“To be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of your life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ….” and that “Everyone shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be able to give an account of his proficiency therein.”

Yale, which produced founding fathers such as Noah Webster, William Samuel Johnson, and Abraham Baldwin, had these requirements for its students:

“Seeing that God is the giver of all wisdom, every student, besides his private and secret prayer, will be present morning and evening for public prayer.”

Princeton produced people like James Madison, Benjamin Rush and John Witherspoon and had this founding statement:

“Cursed is all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”

These faith-based statements played a pivotal role in shaping the hearts, minds and values of our founding fathers and the foundation on which our country was built, and yet our celebrations and commemorations of this country are null and void of any mention of God?

This is not a political rant, but a mere observation. Our country is clearly headed in a certain direction and I just wonder if it was the direction our forefathers had in mind. At the end of the day though, it is not up to our forefathers, as they were mere humans just like us. Rather, it is up to the sovereign will of our Father in Heaven, whether or not we agree with the moral, political, economic and/or spiritual state of this country. All we can do it trust that God knew exactly how America would take shape as a nation and He knows every moment of its future from here on out, for as the Scriptures say:

“From one man, he made all of the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” -Acts 17:26

He has marked out the appointed times in history for each and every nation. He has marked each and every boundary, each and every dividing line and it is all for one, very specific purpose:

“…so they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him…” -Acts 17:27

God created different nations so that we would draw closer to Him. How cool is that? No matter how far our country has come, or how far in whichever direction it has gone, may we always keep the big, eternal picture in view, choosing to seek Him and reach out for Him in the midst of a chaotic world that is impossible to fully understand. And may we also seek to honor our founding fathers by recognizing our nation as one grounded and founded by ‘solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.’

*Challenge Question: What is your favorite way to celebrate July 4th? How can we better carry on our forefathers’ legacy of devotion to God?

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