An Independence Day Observation
The men in the room sweated for other reasons than there being no air conditioning. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yes, I plan on writing today. I wrote 2500 words yesterday (or rather last night in the wee hours of the morning). I sat outside yesterday and watched my son and my middle daughter light water dynamite one after another, exploding ant hills and various other insect hovels…
…but I must make one observation about this holiday that is often missed by the parades, the fireworks displays and the fun parties we have around the grill.
On this day that we celebrate Independence Day, the day that a bunch of bewigged, smartly dressed angry men signed a declaration of their intent to rebel against the government, we often miss the point of it all. We don’t really get into the shoes of what it all meant, of what that Declaration did, and of how those men must have felt as they sat in that hot summer room without air conditioning and sweated bullets, all of them deciding the fate of a new nation.
As men who at their time in history as a majority believed in God and since not long before this day had experienced the Great Awakening, I suppose many of them had read the Bible. The Bible has a couple of things to say about rebellion. 1 Samuel 15:23 (at least the first part of it) says that “rebellion is just like witchcraft”. Also, Romans 13:1-2 states “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Not to mention the “divine right of kings” which stated that if someone rebelled against their King, a person appointed by God to rule over a nation, they were destined for an afterlife of blistering hot summers without end.
Oops. I guess we’re going to hell.
But we have to remember that all of the men in the room were Christians or of a Christian faith, (at least half of them Episcopal) that there was a literal heaven and hell and that the Bible was the rulebook by which one attains heaven. I think, probably, they read the rest of verse 23, chapter 15 of 1st Samuel: “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”
So here come the list of grievances. King George does this, that, and the other bad thing. About 80% of the Declaration is a list of grievances, of how Mad George “rejected the word of the Lord”. If we follow the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” we discover right away that every single grievance on the list flies in the face of “what would Jesus do?”. If we read this list of grievances, we soon find that most of them have to do with the King’s dereliction of duty and generally being a bully to his subjects. This does not make the decision for the men in the room in Philadelphia any easier, but it gives them hubris to do what is necessary to finally free themselves from tyranny, something the Puritan pilgrims did nearly over a century earlier when facing persecution.
I will leave you with the following video. Think about this observation about these men as you watch it. It is from the HBO series John Adams, and I think best illustrates what it was like to be in that room when the Declaration was signed. As you celebrate this holiday keep in mind the sacrifices made to allow you to do so. The 56 men who signed it are watching us, like a “great cloud of witnesses”. Honor that sacrifice.