It started with a suggestion in June, followed by a meeting on July 2, and finally a formal signing on July 4, 1776. From that moment on, the cry would go up around the world that the colonies of the North American Continent, all thirteen of them, had declared independence from Great Britain. Like any country, Britain would not take kindly to losing the colonies. In fact, no country in the history of the world has ever simply said, “Sure, go ahead and leave us and take all the investments we made into your area with you.” No, instead the greatest empire in the world set out to reclaim the colonies and force them back into the British realm. The rest of the story, you know as the United States won independence in the war that followed. To this day, we still hear our friends across the pond in England wish us a “Happy Traitor’s Day.” Naturally, this is done more in good humor now that we are friends so many years after the revolution.
The founding fathers were by no means blind to the fact that they were setting in motion something that would be celebrated for years, and perhaps forever. John Adams wrote to his wife of the importance of the entire event that officially started on July 2 and ended on July 4. He sent his letter on July 3, 1776 that included the following statement:
“The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Adams pretty much summed up the future celebrations that have occurred. He predicted parades, shows, illuminations or fireworks, and that the celebration would be nationwide. A bigger surprise to many today is that Adams also gave due credit to “God Almighty.” Adams even suggested that the day be celebrated with “acts of devotion” to God, or in more familiar terms, prayers to God.
Today we have fireworks, parades, and shows just as Adams predicted. Unfortunately, we also live in a time when political correctness tells us to leave God out of government and out of such celebrations. The founding fathers never thought that a devotion or prayer to God would be in question in a public or government event. They understood God should not be forced on anyone or that views of God should not be molded or controlled by the government, but they certainly did not intend that we would leave God out of our celebrations. Those words of Adams likely anticipated that Christians, Jews, Muslims and others would lift prayers publicly to God during the July celebration. They would lift those prayers to God as each of them saw God, and they would thank God Almighty for a country where religious freedom prevailed above all else. Adams did not have to agree with the faith of others, he did not even have to believe in the faith of others, he – just like any other citizen of the United States today – only had to be tolerant of the faith of others.
The fourth of July once again rolls around to our little corner of the world and we will celebrate. As those fireworks go off, the hot dogs go on the grill, the parades and shows pass, take a moment in your own faith, either publicly, in private, or even on a publicly owned property such as a courthouse, or other such area, to say a prayer to God in a manner consistent with your religion. It’s your right. It’s the right that the founding fathers would have wanted you to express. It is very likely that the founding fathers would be amazed and thrilled to see a federal property filled with people of various faiths lifting prayers in a way consistent with their individual religions. Those same founding fathers would even be happy to see those with no preferred faith decide not to pray as well. We remain to this day a nation of nations – it is our strength, it is our cornerstone. As such, our diversity of religions and our choices about religions makes us stronger and should always be a uniting factor of these United States.