“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,
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
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
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….”