Yes, I know, it is not the 4th of July, and Memorial Day is past, but one of my grandchildren is spending some time in a Latin American country, and a young man in a church where I recently preached has just returned from Africa. They are shocked at what much of the rest of the world is like, and both now have an entirely new view of liberty (and poverty).
The American experiment, with its centerpiece of self-governance, was and is an amazing concept. There have been numerous governments prior to it; among them, the Babylonian, Greek, Roman and European, where certain classes of nobility or landowners had been given a measure of self-determination.
It is only when one looks objectively at history that the truly remarkable nature of the republic of the United States of America is shown in its true context. America is the first example in human history of a nation where people were given the right to vote, elect representatives and determine their own political fate.
There is a French movie (filmed in 1989, six hours long, with English subtitles) that chronicles the French Revolution from beginning to end. The horror and brutality encompassed in striving for liberté, égalité, fraternité by the French, in their drive for freedom, is unimaginable to Americans, of almost every group, who strove for liberty and equality in America.
The definitive differences between these two struggles for liberty are contained in the founding principles of the United States. The framers of the Constitution were putting into practice that which was stated in the Declaration of Independence: “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. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (emphasis added).
It is the phrase, “endowed by their Creator” that provides the “indispensable supports” articulated by George Washington. These foundational concepts have been proven true beyond a shadow of a doubt. America has produced a society of free, sovereign, self-directed individuals who, with their inherent abilities, have created a veritable paradise compared to most of the world.
This is the result of people being: 1) free to govern themselves and 2) responsible enough to govern themselves wisely. When people are not allowed to govern themselves, there is only one way to hold a society together; witness the Soviet Union, China and several Middle Eastern countries that employ the alternatives – secret police and brute force.
The early American leaders trusted the sovereign American people with their own destiny. The American Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution accomplish something very much like what God did in the Garden of Eden – they endow mankind with freedom and the responsibility of choosing their own destiny. Thus far, this amazing society of sovereigns has succeeded in making very good collective choices.
We have, on the whole, tended to be a moral and devout people. At home, we made a choice to end slavery, even at the cost of a bloody Civil War. Abroad, again and again, we have chosen to side with less powerful nations when they have been attacked by aggressors. Americans have reached out at home and abroad with the hand of charity to people who are hurting.
We have opened our doors to immigrants and refugees. We have worked, and continue to work, toward building a just society, free of class exploitation and racial hatred.
The foundational principles of America have proven, beyond any shadow of doubt, that a society of free, sovereign, self-directed individuals can accomplish the seemingly impossible goal envisioned by the Founding Fathers – a free people, living side by side, in accordance with the principles of a living God.
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