Let Freedom Ring!

On July 4, 1776, birds chirped joyously as a light breeze made its way through the Philadelphia hill country. The townsfolk watched anxiously as prominent men in shiny black loafers made their way toward the Pennsylvania State House. Among the men walked Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. Leading the pack was none other than ginger-headed Thomas Jefferson – Congress’ most eloquent writer who led the composition of the Declaration of Independence. The men made their way into the large, opulent building, and the slamming of the doors behind them resounded through the town. Little did these men know that the events that were to take place in that big state house would change the trajectory of American history forever.

The Fourth of July is a popular patriotic holiday which allows U.S. citizens to celebrate the publication of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. Beginning the year after the Declaration was adopted, Americans started celebrating Independence Day. Early Fourth of July festivities included concerts, bonfires, parades, and the firing of cannons and muskets. This was usually accompanied by the reading of the Declaration of Independence. Things have changed a little; although we still celebrate by shooting fireworks, attending concerts, and throwing parades, we also organize family reunions, have barbecues and picnics, and go to baseball games.

The freedom found in the love of Christ offers the utmost liberation and freedom. Romans 6:6-7 tells us, “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (NIV). Though America is bountiful in blessings and freedom, it pales in comparison to the deliverance of Jesus. Sin ensnares the lives of all people; however, under grace, liberation from sin does not come from a written declaration, but rather a living crucifixion. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are no longer slaves to fear and sin, but rather living, liberated children of God.

Written by Lindsey

Image Credit

Advertisements

Fingerprints of Independence

Unless you’ve been to Washington D.C. to see the Declaration of Independence with your own eyes, you might not know it has somebody’s fingerprint ink smudge on it. I know, insensitive right? How dare you—whoever you are—put your grubby fingers all over the most precious gift of liberty ever bestowed upon the civilized world.

I wouldn’t blame any proper American for responding this way, but with respect to the circumstances, we ought to cut the guy some slack. For one thing, the Declaration of Independence that is on display in the National Archives Building is one of several original drafts. It’s not as if he soiled the only copy extant. Secondly, chances are high that, as the Continental Congress was accustomed to doing, he had to pack up the Declaration in a hurry and flee from the threat of the British Army. And, of course, we can’t leave out the most important detail surrounding this whole discussion: Some guy literally left his fingerprint on THE Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock left metaphorical fingerprints on the document, but this guy actually impressed a part of himself, unique to him and him alone, permanently onto one of the most valuable documents in all of history.

Nothing illustrates the beauty of America’s Independence Day better than this. The fingerprints of unknown individuals helping to shape a nation are what America is supposed to be about. American liberty was not won by the efforts of a few famous founding fathers, but by the life-long commitments of billions of normal people. How many signers of the Declaration can you actually name? What about the Constitution? Can you list more than five vice presidents or Supreme Court justices? The goal is not to shame you because you are not a history scholar; I want to encourage you because you are a history maker. No one is arguing against the influence of any revolutionary framers or anyone who has served in public office, yet when even their names go unremembered, why do we continue to ignorantly attribute the success of the United States to a handful of faces carved in a mountainside or etched onto currency?

America was built by the unknown for the worth-knowing. An unrecognized founding father named Button Gwinnett signed the Declaration of Independence so that Abraham Lincoln could one day sign the Emancipation Proclamation. The patriot laid to rest at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier sacrificed his life so that Rosa Parks could one day refuse to give up her bus seat. Slaves labored to construct the White House so that one day Michelle Bachmann and Hilary Clinton could have a shot at sitting in the Oval Office. The fingerprints of the unnamed masses lay beneath the thin layer of recognizable individuals and milestone accomplishments that highlight history textbooks.

No one will ever know the name of patriot who left his fingerprint on the Declaration of Independence. But just down the road from where that document rests is a memorial dedicated to the man who penned the words of the Declaration; every Fourth of July, fireworks illuminate his tribune, and people speak his name with respect and awe. To some, we build monuments, and to others, we give honor by imitating their courage and patriotism and by walking down the path of freedom they laid out before us. Immigrants. Descendants of the Pilgrims. Welfare families. Trust fund babies. Criminals. Religious ministers. Farmers. Wall Street brokers. Republicans. Democrats. Privileged women of color. Low-income white men. Single dads. CEO mothers. United by freedom and empowered by liberty, these are the ones who bring independence to life through the way they live their day to day lives as Americans.

All are equally American, and all have equal claim on the American Story. Whoever you are, whatever your narrative is, if you use the privilege of your liberty to make a way for others to find their own freedom, if you celebrate every day you wake up an American as Independence Day, you, too, will surely leave your fingerprints on America’s legacy.

Written by Savanna

Image credit