Once again, the July Fourth holiday is upon us. I pray that you all had or are having a restful and enjoyable celebration.
Parades, picnics, firework shows, thatís all part of the traditional events we all look forward to, including my family (which includes my grandchildren, up from Phoenix for a month).
Itís fitting that we take time out once every year to consider the blessings we have been given by our Father in heaven for the land we live in. The blessing of electing our own leaders, accountable to us. The blessing of freedom to speak our piece, to peacefully assemble, to have free and independent news sources not accountable to the ruling power, and to worship God in the way of our own choosing (or not to worship at all).
These are freedoms many in the world donít enjoy. And then thereís perhaps the greatest freedom of all ó the freedom to change governing parties peacefully, without revolution.
For all its faults, there is no system of government that has brought the level of peace and prosperity and opportunity to its people as ours has.
But as we enjoy these blessings, and celebrate our nationís founding, letís stop and consider their source. Our Founding Fathers (whether Deists, Calvinists, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Reformed, or any other religious persuasion), while disagreeing on many important religious teachings, understood that all good things ultimately come from the God who has created us, sustained us and given us a moral code by which to live in peace and justice with one another.
The answer to the great philosophical and political question our forefathers wrestled with ó Can ordinary people come together and govern themselves in peace while promoting justice without depending on an aristocracy or a benevolent dictator (if there is such a thing) for guidance? ≠ó seems to have been answered by our experiment in democracy in this manner: Yes, so long as those people continue to look to a divine source for guidance and not trust solely in themselves. A divine source that keeps them pointed toward the higher principles of community and human care through acts of love and mercy, rather than following their more base human instincts of seeing only to each oneís own selfish interests.
Our way of life depends on us continuing in that belief. We are indeed a country of laws, but we are also a country founded on the virtues of the Judeo-Christian ethic as we (and they) knew it from Scripture. No country can depend on law alone for order and civility. No country could build enough jails, hire enough law enforcement officials, or elect enough judges to achieve that. My fear is that we are slowly losing perspective on this most important point.
So if you havenít already done so, take a moment and say a prayer of thankfulness for the gifts of freedom, liberty, and prosperity that we enjoy, even imperfectly, as citizens of this great country. Thank God for his many blessings and pray that we will always be a people who look to him first for guidance. Godís peace to all of you.
Peter Spallek has been pastor of Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church since September 2007. He attended Concordia University in Irvine, Calif., receiving a bachelor of arts in parish education; and Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, where he received a master of arts in theology.
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