■ By Ronald Ritter / Contributed
The tumultuous setting for Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John 8:36 was not unlike the tumultuous time when America’s founders approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The actual military struggle for the American colonists against the tyranny of the British Empire began in April of 1775 at Lexington, Massachusetts.
For the Founders, the ideal of freedom applied not only to their spiritual lives but also to their political and national ones. For the Founders, the intimate connection between spiritual and national freedom was a foregone conclusion. They were guided by their strong intellect steeped with biblical knowledge that had been mediated by a life under tyrannical coercion and suppression.
The worldview out of which America was born centered on the powerful thirst for freedom. For the Founders, freedom was not an abstraction. They understood it concretely as a people who had been living under its opposite – the tyranny of British royalty.
From that day until this, the freedom that Americans have fought and died for has been the moving force behind the acquisition and defense of the American dream. That dream is captured forever in the opening sentence of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In the absence of freedom, these Rights are slowly diminished and ultimately abolished.
Under the blessings that freedom produces, Americans have prospered as no other nation on earth. Here in America, the energy, ingenuity and genius of a people committed to freedom have unleashed an energy for good to a greater extent and degree than has ever been witnessed before. The freedom and dignity of the individual has been more available and assured in America than as any other place on earth.
At times, the price to preserve this freedom has been high but Americans have never been unwilling to pay that price. No weapons in the arsenals of the world are so formidable as the will and moral courage of men and women who choose and cherish freedom over tyranny. Altering just a bit his message, President Ronald Reagan said, “Peace and freedom are the highest aspirations of the American people. We will negotiate for them, sacrifice for them; we will never surrender for them, now or ever.”
So… as a free people who continue to choose to remain free, cherish and enjoy your celebration of the 241th birthday of America.
Happy birthday, America!