“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” –Declaration of Independence
Last night, as we stood on a pier in Red Hook Brooklyn awaiting the fireworks, I took a look around. I was standing on a small pier with a few hundred people who come from extraordinarily different backgrounds. There are few places in the world where Jews, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Black, Whites, Hispanics, Asians, young, and old all peacefully and joyously await the celebration of a unifying idea, the idea of America.
The American Declaration of Independence was not just a rebellion against a foreign power. It was a transcendent worldview, which stated, “that all men are created equal, that their Creator with certain unalienable Rights endows them…”. Yet, if anything is to be self-evident, it must be common to all mankind and not simply an opinion. Your idea of what is self-evident might not be the same as mine. Therefore, no one can hold anything as self-evident without a transcendent mandate under which all are subject.
Therefore, the idea of America doesn’t hold any weight without the endowment of a Creator. In a world without a Creator, how does one come to such a conclusion about humanity? In a merely physical world, all men are not created equal. There are obviously some who are smarter, strong, and more capable to survive than others. In a non-natural or strictly metaphysical world, there is no need for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. However, with a Creator, there is basis to believe in the dignity and equality of mankind. Without a Creator, there is nothing more than an opinion and opinions do not hold much water because everyone has a different one.
I say this because as our nation has grown in diversity, there has been a tendency to move away from the “archaic” idea that a Creator has endowed anything. We’ve convinced ourselves that my idea of what is best is truly what is best. We are taught to follow our hearts, reach for the stars, and not let anyone get in our way. However, if our rights to do such things are provided by an endowment of a Creator, shouldn’t we give greater attention to this Creator? In what other context would we find it acceptable to be given enormous freedom and yet have no resolve to know or honor the one that provided such freedom?
Let me say, America is not nor has it ever been a “Christian Nation”. Religiously controlled nations are not nations that anyone wants to be apart of, even a Christian one. Religion and power do not make good bedfellows. However, every principal, worldview, and conviction in the Declaration of Independence was provided by the Judeo-Christian beliefs of our founders. G.K. Chesterton, a brilliant 19th century thinker and writer said, the Declaration of Independence “is set forth with dogmatic and theological lucidity”. If this is true then we cannot stand firm on the idea of America without acknowledging the motivation for such an idea.
I am proud to be an American for many reasons and as I looked at those on the pier I realized why. Our nation was founded on the idea that there is a Creator that sees each individual as worth acknowledging. No matter where a person has come from, they are made in the image of God with certain inalienable rights. However, if we lose the belief that there is a Creator, who has given these rights, we lose the idea of America. The God who desires to receive all men to Himself, is the only One who provides a basis for our great nation.