Monday, July 4, 2011

What Does July 4th Mean in “Modern” America?

"Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” - a question asked by Thomas Jefferson (on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.)

"How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking? The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4:14) comes true.

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

It appears that many of the leaders of the secular, Western nations also want to do away with the natural law. The first paragraph of the Declaration specifically mentions the natural law. The natural law refers to rules of conduct or morality based on human nature. It also assumes that absolutes exist. This means that the order we see in the universe extends to human nature and behavior. Thus, it is universal and binding on all people and cultures throughout history. As such, we can know the difference between good and evil through the use of our reason, and we are responsible to seek out objective moral truth and submit ourselves to it. This makes us moral beings.

The 4th of July is the day when people gather all over the United States of America to celebrate their Independence. Fireworks light up the sky, families and friends will join to remember those who gave their lives so that the promises set forth in that Declaration of Independence could inform a new Nation.

The principles the Declaration communicates have informed our history as a free people and inspired our neighbors in other parts of the world to stand up against all forms of tyranny. As we reflect upon the text this weekend we need to remember that our forebears were not declaring their independence from Divine Providence. Rather, they were trusting in the primacy of the Governance of God over their own lives and their noble undertaking.

They sought independence from a monarchy which had become tyrannical precisely because it had forgotten the implications of the primacy of Divine Providence. The principles set forth in that Declaration were a rallying cry which called forth extraordinary sacrifice. They were rooted in something much greater than political expediency. That is why those principles became a measuring stick against which all governments of men would be measured in the future.

They believed there actually were truths - objective truths- to be held and that those truths are self evident. Those truths include the existence of unalienable rights which are given to all men and women by a Creator. They believed that those truths and those rights can be discerned by all men and women because they are revealed by the Natural Law which is written on all human hearts and is a participation in God's law.

At the core of the founders vision of a "good" society, one where all men and women could pursue "happiness", was a bedrock belief in the need for a common morality upon which this virtuous and free society could be built. After all the classical vision of happiness was a reference to the moral life wherein human persons flourished by becoming more human by living virtuously. While the founders embraced a freedom of religion, they did not ascribe to an enforced secularism, a freedom FROM religion, where the influence of religious principles or the leavening role of religious institutions was viewed as some kind of threat to true liberty.

Perhaps it is time for another revolution. I do not mean a violent revolution. Rather, the kind of revolution I am referring to is a revolution that begins with our own radical conversion and is followed by prayer, lots of prayer. We need to bathe this country in prayer. This will make it possible for Jesus to manifest himself to the world through us, and it will enable us to confront the evil in our country with a radical divine love. To begin a revolution in this country, we only need to live our faith. Jesus was the greatest revolutionary. While it is true that he did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it, he also brought about the end of a world and ushered in a new world. He is still doing it, and we are called to be united to him and his revolutionary work, that is, the work of redemption and a new creation."

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