The 4th of July and Freedom
"Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth all the means. This is our day of deliverance. With solemn acts of devotion we ought to commemorate it, with pomp and parade...with shows and games...sports and guns...with bells and bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other....from this time forward and forevermore..." So wrote John Adams about the 4th of July.
There is no question in my mind that the 4th of July is the most important holiday that we celebrate in the United States of America. All of the other national holidays, Easter and Christmas included, pale by comparison.
On the 4th of July, 1826, America celebrated the 50th anniversary of her independence. John Adams, the second President of the United States died on that day at the age of 90. His last words were "Thomas Jefferson still survives." But, on that same day .. Jefferson too, died.
There was something mystical about the relationship between Adams and Jefferson. It was these two giants who, with James Madison, set the direction and the philosophy of this great nation.
We are celebrating the Declaration of Independence. With only a very few word changes that magnificent document was written by one man, Thomas Jefferson..
I have one bust in my study. It is of Jefferson. On the base are these words: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." He uses the word "God" as a Deist, not as a Christian. A vast difference. He made this scathing statement aimed at the tyranny of the Christian Church. In a letter dated August 22, 1800, Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote that "Republicanism should ally itself to the Christian religion in order to overturn all of the corrupted religions of the world." Jefferson was appalled. He responded with his now famous "every form of tyranny over the mind of man" including the tyranny of the Christian church.
Both men, Jefferson and Adams, had total contempt for the Christian church and Christianity in general. I have often wondered why no teacher has the guts to teach these facts in our public schools?
President Adams put it in these words: "The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity." Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli, with its article 11, which began "The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
Jefferson said it like this: "I have examined all of the known superstitions of the world and I do not find in our superstitions of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all founded on fables and mythology. Christianity has made one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites."
I want to share with you an incident that illustrates how the Christian right continually lies about these facts. I wrote a column on the fact that George Washington was a Deist and Humanist. The principal of a Christian school called me and asked me to write an apology due to the fact that Washington was a born again Christian. I asked him, "Where did you get that information?"
He said: "From my calendar...it says here on Washington's birthday that he was born again."
I asked, "What calendar is that?"
He said "The calendar that comes to us from Pat Robertson's headquarters." Need I say more?
I am always overwhelmed with thanksgiving and gratitude that men of the stature and integrity of Adams, Madison and Jefferson never stooped to the low level of inviting a token bible-thumping clown to lead a "prayer breakfast" to placate bible belt America. Only one recent American President had the guts to say what he actually thought about the brown-noser of the White House, Billy Graham. What Harry Truman said cannot be printed in a family newspaper, but cleaned up, it was that Billy Graham would never get within five miles of the White House while Truman was there. Now we have just seen the comedy of Billy's son dedicating the George W. Bush circus to Jesus. Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison are all drowning in tears at the sight of what their vision has become.
Roland Hegstad, a former editor of the Seventh Day Adventist magazine, wrote: "How ironic, to lose our freedom at last, not to leftists tossing bombs, but to so-called Christians espousing slogans and clichés."
Several years ago the academic dean of Stanford University wrote this in their University magazine: "The Christian Right is potentially much more dangerous to our nation than the Communist party ever has been. This group presents the gravest crisis for the next two decades, because of their wedding of religious 'slogans' with their politics. They are infringing upon a precious right, that each of us inherited from those very learned men of the 18th century who expressly separated church and state in these United States of America."
On this 4th of July, may I suggest that we celebrate the brilliance of Jefferson, Adams and Madison? Will we ever again see men or women of their caliber in American politics?
On this 4th of July, please do forget cold beer and fireworks for a
few moments and remember some words written by Stephen Vincent Benet. Memorize
them....Read them to your children, neighbors and friends. And then....read
them over and over again.
"There are certain words......our own and others we're used to...words we've heard....had to recite. Forgotten. Rubbed shiny in the pocket...left home for keepsakes.....inherited...stuck away in the back drawer....in the locked trunk...at the back of the quiet mind. "Liberty.....Equality.....Freedom.... to none will we sell...refuse...or deny....right or justice.. We hold these truths to be self evident......I am merely saying.....what if these words pass?......what if these words pass and are gone....and are no more? It took a long time to buy these words.........it took a long time to buy them....and much pain.....and much blood...."