Happy 4th of July!
Today numerous Americans will be grilling tasty animal flesh, waving their American flags, going to picnics and airshows, and of course, blowing stuff up. It’s a great day, a glorious day, and personally, one of my favorite holidays, not the least of which because it also happens to be my Dad’s birthday. And because I’m a pyro. 🔥👍
I have noted a trend among some evangelicals who seem to want to divorce patriotic displays, hymns, or content from the church, out of some misplaced sense of fairness. They claim that we shouldn’t be conflating patriotism with fealty to Jesus Christ. This is certainly true, but I don’t think that’s what patriotism really is, nor are Christianity and patriotism mutually exclusive. They claim it makes people feel bad who are disturbed by our country, to which the only right response, in my mind, is that of Michael Bolton from Office Space: “Why should we change, they’re the ones who suck!” And they seem to have rooted in the trough of Leftism and bought the lie that America isn’t great, was never great, and we should all be humble and apologetic because of all the terrible things our country has done, like abolishing slavery, giving women the vote and defeating the Nazis. There is also the sense that participation in civil government is somehow beneath us as Christians.
I can’t speak for Presbyterians, Catholics, or Episcopalians, but as a Baptist I feel I must point out a few pertinent facts to these apparently anti-American Christians who seem ignorant of history.
Baptists are as American as baseball and apple pie. The European tradition of rebellion against Catholic hegemony began with the Anabaptists, who got their name because they rejected the heretical practice of infant baptism. And suffered for it. And were martyred for it. This took root in the American Colonies, where the Baptists were a persecuted minority. Who was doing the persecuting? That would be the Puritans, separatists from the Church of England who had come to America seeking religious freedom, and proceeded to deny it to everybody not Puritan. Today they are called Episcopalian. The Puritans martyred, flogged, imprisoned, and exiled the Baptists to the wilderness (a death sentence), all because they refused to baptize their babies, and because they insisted on personal faith in Jesus Christ as a prerequisite for both baptism and church membership. They also insisted on democratically electing their leaders, and were guilty of preaching without a license. One man, a preacher named Shubal Stearns, started hundreds of Baptist churches all over the Old South, what we call the Bible Belt today. Long before the Revolution and the Constitution the Baptists were advocating for freedom of conscience and freedom of religion throughout the Colonies, and suffered for it at the hands of the Anglicans, who wanted the Church of England to become the Church of America.
So you know those liberties you love and enjoy, or hate and seek to destroy if you’re a Leftist? You have those because of Baptists. Baptists pressed the government to guarantee religious liberty to all of its citizens, and the First Amendment to the US Constitution was the result. As opposed to entirely fabricated made up rights like abortion or gay marriage, the First Amendment forbids Congress from establishing a state religion like in Europe, and absolutely guarantees that all citizens of the United States have the natural right to worship, or not, as their own consciences dictates. Freedom of conscience has been one of the defining historical characteristics of Baptists from the very beginning. And they managed to get it enshrined in the Constitution to the great benefit of us all.
Now I think that the wording of the 1st amendment is crystal clear, namely that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, but the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut felt it wasn’t strong enough in its wording. They feared it could be interpreted to mean that the right to freedom of religion was granted by government and could therefore be denied by that government, rather than being a natural right, granted by God, and recognized by government. In other words, an inalienable right.
So, they wrote the newly elected President Thomas Jefferson a letter in 1801, which stated that “Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty: that Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals, that no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious opinions, [and] that the legitimate power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor. But sir, our constitution of government is not specific. Our ancient charter, together with the laws made coincident therewith, were adapted as the basis of our government at the time of our revolution. And such has been our laws and usages, and such still are, [so] that Religion is considered as the first object of Legislation, and therefore what religious privileges we enjoy (as a minor part of the State) we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights. And these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgments, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen. It is not to be wondered at therefore, if those who seek after power and gain, under the pretense of government and Religion, should reproach their fellow men, [or] should reproach their Chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion, law, and good order, because he will not, dares not, assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.”
To this, Thomas Jefferson penned perhaps one of the most influential private letters ever written, in which he responded “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature would “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”
We have then the reverent enshrining of freedom of conscience and Separation of Church and State in American legal precedent and tradition. And we have it because of Baptists.
When we celebrate Independence as a nation, it is therefore entirely appropriate that American Christians participate fully and enthusiastically, seeing as how the nation we love and defend would not exist in its present form with its rights and liberties were it not for the ever present influence of its Christian citizens. As our sixth President, John Quincey Adams once said, “The highest, the transcendent glory of the American Revolution was this — it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the precepts of Christianity.” Far from staying out of American politics, Christians have been involved in every major change every step of the way. It was Christians that fought and died to finally end the barbaric practice of human slavery, and other Christians who fought to end segregation and Jim Crow. It was Christians who worked and marched to get women the vote. It was Christians who built hospitals, and schools, and orphanages to give shelter, aid, and education to the poor and the needy. It was Christians who worked to bring temperance to America so women and children wouldn’t have to be abused by drunken men. It was Christians who have stood with Israel, and Christians who stood against Marxism and Fascism and Progressivism. And most recently, it was Christians who put Donald Trump in the White House where he will appoint perhaps as many as three strict constructionist Supreme Court Justices who will, in due time, overturn Roe v Wade and end the horrific practice of infanticide/abortion. America may not be a Christian nation, but it has been a country that favors Christianity, one where the concept of inalienable rights and religious freedom allows those Christians to work to make and maintain a free country we can all be proud of.
Frankly, I cannot see how any American Christian, let alone a Baptist, can fail to celebrate his country, be grateful to God for his heritage, and rejoice in the freedoms he enjoys as a direct result of the labors and sacrifices of multiple prior generations of American Christians. It is disrespectful and ungrateful to do any less. So I say, go all in! Wave those flags! Sing that National Anthem! Preach about freedom and liberty, from the pulpit, in the truest and finest tradition of American preachers! Have that barbecue! Blow up those firecrackers! And above all, enjoy being American, and a citizen of the greatest country on Earth since Israel. Never be ashamed of this great gift that God has given you! God bless America! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸