Monday, July 4, 2011

Decorations of Independence

There is a flag flying on the front porch. As they do every year, neighborhood volunteers, up at the crack of dawn, lined our streets with flags. The flag adorns businessess, shirts, the hood of another neighbor's antique car. My next door neighbor displays red, white and blue bunting on his driveway gate from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

I love this American tradition, this United States of American tradition, of celebrating our demand for freedom. In our community, the fireworks, the picnics, the carnivals are small exclamation points to the years' displays of patriotism. In our schools we say the Pledge of Allegiance. In our town, businesses fly the flag. At our games we sing the Star Spangled Banner. In our city, the orchestra plays and the audience sings the National Anthem at the start of each concert. 

Our church has a patriotic service each year. We sing the Battle Hymn, America the Beautiful, My Country 'Tis of Thee, the Star Spangled Banner. Uniformed veterans walk in their branch's flag as the choir performs the Salute to the Armed Forces. For the past several years I have particularly enjoyed the World War II Navy veteran, tall, still slim in his khakis, jauntily marching in and saluting his flag. We shed tears at the pictures, videos and "freedom displays" of active duty and veteran congregants.

Our pastor preaches on appreciation, responsibility and respect - on the interweaving of faith and government. We must honor our defenders. We must vote our convictions. We must pray for our government's leaders.

Should there be this intermingling of church and "state?" Of course! Each promotes the stability of the other. The following is a quote from Benjamin Franklin, eighty-one years old, as he addressed the delegates at the Constitutional Convention, struggling to agree on a founding document:

In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. -- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.
I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that "except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move -- that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.

The Assembly agreed with Mr. Franklin's request, and the rest is History.

May God Bless America!

1 comment:

Ricky Balthrop said...

I love to read your writing. Even though it's July 5th here, thanks for my Independence Day fix!