No matter one's Christian perspective, it is obvious that a belief in a supreme being and the preservation of the freedom to have faith incentivized the founding fathers as they established the United States of America. “In God We Trust” is engraved above the rostrum in the U.S. House of Representatives Chamber. In the Senate chamber, Annuit coeptis is posted above the east doorway, which translates to “God has favored our undertakings”; and, among names and dates on the aluminum cap of the Washington Monument, there is the Latin inscription Laus Deo, which means, “Praise be to God.”
Spirituality is sprinkled everywhere in our country; in some ways, it seems that faith and freedom are fused. Despite the myriad religions and belief systems that dot America’s theological landscape today, it all started with a group of people who valued their faith enough to create a new country to conserve it. The founders knew that the only way they could find solace and a haven for a life of liberty was if they started anew.
An Offshoot of Values
Our way of life today is in many ways an offshoot of those values. I believe the freedom Americans possess is reflective of the freedom Christians enjoy. Second Corinthians 3:17 (NIV)1 declares, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Aligning with the source results in attaining it in its truest form.
Most, if not every, Fourth of July, I end up hearing the song, “America the Beautiful.” The most famous version is probably the one sung by the late Ray Charles swaying at the piano, head tilted back. While the first couple verses are most memorable, the third still stands out, especially as it ends: “May God thy gold refine, till all success be nobleness, And every gain divine!” Katherine Lee Bates, the poet who penned this song, is calling Americans to a higher morality that is principled and selfless.
I think the first Americans were trying to find freedom, not only for themselves but for anyone willing to stand for what it meant. I also think that this ideal is what is at the center of Christianity. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13, ESV).2 Freedom is a gift, but the moment we think of ourselves as singular and not part of a greater calling, we lose sight of what it really is.
Not for America Alone
Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We defend and we build a way of life, not for America alone, but for all mankind.” The New Colossus is a poem on a plaque placed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. It is famous for its last lines, which read as an invitation. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
In Matthew 11:28, 29, when Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (NIV), He seems to be lifting a lamp and saying, “I have shown what a life of peace and liberation looks like, and it is for you all.”
Juliet Bromme is a senior communication major at Union College and a summer intern at Adventist Review Ministries.
1Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
2Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.