Happy Birthday, America!
America – as in the United States of America. We are the only nation in all of the Americas – North, Central and South – that refers to itself as America, or is referred to by others as America. When traveling abroad, I am often asked, “Are you an American?” When I reply in the affirmative, the individual then wants to know where I’m from in the United States. Their face always lights up when I say “I live in California.” Everyone around the world knows California.
Our nation celebrates its 231st Birthday today. I started doing the math and realized that this country of ours was only 173 years old in 1948 – the year I was born. My mother just turned 92 last week. That means the USA was 139 years old at her birth in 1915. My great-grandfather was born in 1828, which means our nation was 52 years old when he was born. I wonder if he had any idea of how much of an impact our country would have on the rest of the world. Especially after he had served in the Civil War when the nation was a mere 85 years old – at a time when America seemed to be hopelessly divided. What would Great-Granddaddy Daniel Thatcher Lake think of our country if he saw it today?
I’ve been reading a book written by Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives. The book is called, Rediscovering God in America. In recent years there have been numerous attempts to remove the influence of religion from the public square. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002 declared the phrase, “under God,” in the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional. This phrase was originally authorized in President Dwight Eisenhower’s first term of office in 1954. Gingrich writes, “The term “under God” was inserted deliberately by Congress to draw the distinction between atheistic tyranny (the Soviet Union) and a free society whose freedoms were based on the God-given rights of each person. As Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote in Zorach vs. Clauson just two years before the Congress added the words “under God” to the Pledge: “We are a religious people and our institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.” In Zorach vs. Clauson, “the (Supreme) Court upheld a school policy that allowed students to leave public schools to receive religious training off campus.”
It is both interesting and ironic to me that within our United States Government we have a number of traditional religious functions. Take, for instance, the United States Senate. Since 1789, the year George Washington was sworn in as our first president, there has been a chaplain in the Senate. The members of the Senate select by majority vote a clergy person to serve as their spiritual counselor and advisor. The present Senate Chaplain is retired Navy Rear Admiral Barry C. Black, a man I had the distinct pleasure of working for when he was the Deputy Chief of Chaplains for the Navy in the late 1990s. One of the responsibilities and privileges of the chaplain is to open each session of the United States Senate with a prayer.
Another religious oddity takes place in the Supreme Court of the United States. Every day in which the Supreme Court is in session begins with the proclamation, “God save the United States and this honorable Court.” This time-honored practice has been performed for nearly two hundred years. Gingrich says, “It was adopted because the (Supreme Court) justices in the 1820s actually wanted to call on God to save the United States and the Court.” Imagine that!
The Founding Fathers in crafting the Declaration of Independence, understood full well that man was endowed by his Creator with unalienable rights. “During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin (often considered one of the least religious of the Founding Fathers) proposed that the Convention begin each day with prayer. As the oldest delegate, at age eighty-one, Franklin insisted that ‘the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the Affairs of Men.’” Gingrich further writes, “Because of their belief that power had come from God to each individual, the Framers began the Constitution with the words, ‘we the people.’”
At the inauguration of George Washington as our first president, he placed his right hand on the Bible after taking the oath, and declared, ‘So help me God.” Every president since Washington (all forty-two), has said those exact same words when taking the oath of office. One thing President Washington did that has set him apart from his successors, after he stated, “So help me God,” was to bend over and kiss the Bible.
With a legacy of godliness like this, would you join me during these perilous times in asking God to save the United States? He wants to – He’s just waiting to hear from “we the people.”
Have a wonderful and blessed 4th of July!