I chose this third Oil painting of eagles, completed this summer, to highlight ‘Freedom’. The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. Charles Thomson, the secretary of Congress, was eventually given the task of recommending the national bird. Thomson chose the American bald eagle, and Congress adopted his design on June 20, 1782.
This week I am indebted to author Os Guinness, and my notes from his speech: The Modern Global World.
St. Augustine said, “To understand a nation you look at its last thing held in common. What characterizes a nation is what it loves supremely in common.” One thing US citizens hold in common is ‘freedom’.
The goal of the founding fathers was to build a free republic that would stay free forever.
These three things the founding fathers did in setting up a free republic.
- WINNING Freedom by Revolution (the simplest to accomplish), The French did it. The Russians did it. China did it.
- ORDERING Freedom by Constitution. The French, Russians and Chinese did not do this. Their freedom came near to demonic and worse than before their revolution.
- SUSTAINING Freedom. Ben Franklin was asked by a woman, following the Philadelphia convention: “What did you accomplish?” His response: “We achieved a Republic madam…If you can keep it.”
At age 28 Abe Lincoln gave a speech in Springfield, Ill. Titled “The Perpetuation of our Institutions”. Not many 28 year olds would do that today. Sustainable is a common word in conversation today but not so much in what Abe was talking about— ‘Institutions’ necessary for sustaining a republic.
The founders were Revolutionary but also Rooted. What they were about was to defy history.
Cicero gave these reasons why free nations failed.
- Freedom undermined by external nations. The US had two oceans to protect at the time of independence. Napoleon was not a real threat at the time. Today oceans are a small deterrent.
- Freedom undermined by corruption of custom. What is formed by a nation is a constitution of custom. But the moral standards put into the customs are key for the Republic to survive.
- Freedom undermined by passage of time. No free nation has ever lasted. Everything changes.
In a fallen world freedom would never last. But the framers tried to make one that would last. Most, when asked today what will sustain our nation as a free nation, will respond: Constitution…Law. No. This idea was evident in the 1920s as America began to be secular. This is Not what the framers had in mind.
The Framers had a much better idea and closer to the gospel. They pointed out three parallels between the Jews and the Puritans and what they were trying to do.
- What the Jews called Exodus the Puritans called Conversion and the framers called Revolution. Each was a founding, liberating event, which freed a people.
- What Jesus called Covenant the Puritans also called Covenant and the framers called Constitution.
- What the Jews called ‘Return’ ‘If we return to the Lord the Lord will return to us and restore our fortunes’. The Puritans called ‘Revival’. The Framers understood that a free republic needs a frequent recurrent or ‘Restoration’ of foundational first principles. Every generation is a new people. They need to buy into it or they are in trouble.
What’s the ‘take away’ ?
I think it was George Washington who said this nation can survive only as its people understand they are ultimately answerable to God, who is a higher power than human Constitutions and Laws. I believe followers of Jesus allegiance is first to their citizenship in the ‘Kingdom of heaven’ for now and for eternity. That allegiance provides ballast for a sustainable nation. Paul reminds us…
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:13-15 NIV
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22, 23 NIV
I suggest followers of Jesus serve under two avian symbols: American Eagle as citizens of the US and Dove as citizens of the ‘Kingdom of heaven’: “the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like a dove.” Luke 3:22 NIV
A famous author once said: With a revolution and with a novel, the hardest part is how does it end.
Will this generation be decisive for America?
Suggested reading: A Free People’s Suicide, Sustainable Freedom and The American Future, by Os Guinness