As the sun sets on July 3rd, 1776 a small band of men settle in to their beds, fervently praying to the almighty God. They have the votes needed to ratify one of the most audacious documents the world has ever seen, knowing full well that they would likely be beheaded, dismembered, and publicly displayed for their actions. The Declaration Of The United States as a free and independent nation was about to be ratified against insurmountable odds. In this special July 4th blog I will answer some daunting questions about America’s foundation – Why did this small and relatively power-less band of men act in such a bold way? What drove them to do something that would almost certainly lead to a humiliating death? And finally, what parallels do these actions have with Jesus?
To first understand the measure of the sacrifice of the founding fathers, we must understand the pretense surrounding them. In the 1700’s, Europe was a land of empires ruled by iron fisted monarchs. These monarchs were believed to be divinely appointed, and any man or woman who spoke out against them was beheaded. The monarch dictated every policy in the nation – financial, cultural, and even the theological practices of the nation. People were viewed as servants of the king – not equals as the bible describes. This “servants of the king” notion is also what laid the ground for slavery in America – monarchs used slave labor in America to get rich.
Most Americans, the founding fathers included, made their way to America to escape the tyrannical rule of European empires. In America, they were forgiven of their debts, allowed to worship freely, and to trade freely. They were given something that no group of people before them had experienced – freedom to be men as God had created them. The average American in the 1700’s had a free and independent spirit with God at the center – for more on the spirituality of the founders, see Blog: America – God’s Nation.
Fast forward to the 1770’s. The game is changing. Repeated attempts by the British crown to crack down on America are thwarted by the Americans – the monarch of England begins to realize that Americans no longer see themselves as “subjects” – but as equals. The king sends 10,000 British infantry and a large fleet to Boston to quell the Massachusetts militia, who had prevented the English army from establishing martial law in Massachusetts. The American patriots surrounded and besieged the city of Boston – ultimately the English broke the siege, but in doing so, lost over 1,000 men while the salty Americans, driven by the ideology of unleashing the freedom of mankind, only lost 450 men.
Around the same time, many of America’s leaders were entranced by the writings of John Locke, an English philosopher – who proposed that all men were given natural rights by God Himself, the right to have life, liberty, and property (Americans changed property to the pursuit of happiness). These rights were denied to European citizens at the time. The young fledgling nation was on the verge of greatness, and it only needed a spark. The newly formed Continental Congress had half-heartedly supported the Massachusetts militia at Bunker Hill, but it was time for them to assume authority, and to declare America a free and independent nation – the punishment for which is death by beheading.
As the founding fathers prayed on the night of July 3rd, they knew the task that was ahead of them. A long and grueling war. They would need provision from God almighty if they were to win a war against the world’s mightiest army. What drove them to engage in such a daunting rebellion? The answer is that they were driven by what we now call “the American spirit”, an ideology that all men are created equal, should be able to worship the triune God, and should be able to pursue the financial endeavors that God calls them to.
These men were bold and uncompromising in a way that is only surmounted by Christ dying on the cross (see Blog: An Uncompromising Walk). They were willing to lay their own lives down so that future generations could prosper. Their actions would spark a revolution in the church and a revolution in the way God was worshiped. No longer was the church bound to the whims of government – the church could finally follow the Holy Spirit and God’s will. It was a momentous moment in history. As evidenced by history, God was on the side of the Americans, and granted the new nation victory in the largest upset of the millennia.
As we remember the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the United States today, I would exhort you to remember the actions of these brave men, and to aspire to share the boldness and courage that they displayed. Tens of thousands of men suffered and died in the eight-year revolutionary war so that you could worship God freely, have economic freedom, and be free in your thoughts. They were imperfect men – just as imperfect as you and I, that risked and gave everything for you. Your life is built upon the sacrifices of the men that came before you – a savior that endured unimaginable torture for you, and a band of men that endured similar suffering that you could worship your savior freely. This is the praetorian way.