The answer is the Declaration of Independence, since the tablet is engraved with July 4, 1776 in Roman numerals.
The great British writer, G.K. Chesterton, once said, “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence.”
Two hundred thirty nine years ago, 56 men, representing some three million British colonists voted to approve that revolutionary document. If they failed, these men were voting for their own death.
In June 1776, the Continental Congress voted to approve declaring independence from Great Britain, and a committee was formed to write the document. Thomas Jefferson served on that committee and became the chief author. The bulk of what he wrote was accepted with alteration.
On July 2, 1776, Congress voted to accept Independence from Great Britain. That’s why John Adams said about that date: “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.” He was off by two days.
On July 4, Congress voted to accept the now-modified Declaration of Independence.
What makes the Declaration so revolutionary? Above all, it says that our rights come from God.
John F. Kennedy expressed it so well in his Inaugural Address in 1961, “…the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”
God-given rights are non-negotiable. God-given rights supersede rights granted by man.
When Ben Franklin signed it, he declared, “We must all hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately.” They were signing their death warrants, defying the strongest nation on earth. But God saw them through, and we became a free land.
But today, we have a situation where we are losing many of our freedoms, especially our religious freedoms.
We see it in the censorship of God in the schools. For example, a few years ago, a Christian valedictorian literally had her microphone cut off in the middle of her speech because she was about to mention that she was thankful to Christ for His help in her academic achievements.
In our own county (Broward), a 5th grader was prevented from reading his Bible at school, silently, to himself, during “free reading time,” when the children were free to read whatever they wanted. Only because of the involvement of a Christian legal group (Liberty Institute) did the school back down.
Look at the irony of this. The first act for public education came from the Puritans in Boston in the 1640s. It was called the Old Deluder Satan Act. The act says because that “Old Deluder Satan” keeps people in darkness by keeping them from the Word of God, they need to be able to read the Bible for themselves. Therefore, they need to be able to read — period. Therefore, schools shall be established.
Now, we’re at a place where the Bible and its message, are subject to censorship in the public arena.
Ramifications of retreat
Part of the reason this has happened is because so many Christians have retreated from the public square. We have not gotten involved in politics because that’s dirty business.
My long-time pastor, the late James Kennedy, Ph.D. said this about Christians and politics in general: “I remember 20 years ago, a Christian said to me, ‘You don’t really believe that Christians should get active in politics do you?’ And I said, with tongue in cheek, ‘Why, of course not, we ought to leave it to the atheists, otherwise, we wouldn’t have anything to complain about. And we’d really rather complain than do something, wouldn’t we?’”
Look at the mess we’re in because many Christians have neglected this duty. Five Houston pastors recently had their communications (including sermons) subpoenaed by the mayor because they had spoken out against a bill allowing a man to use the ladies’ room. Their emails and text messages had been demanded, to see if they said anything that could be construed as opposition to allowing a man to use the ladies’ room.
It is a privilege to vote. It is our Christian duty to vote. If enough evangelicals and conservative Catholics showed up and voted biblical values, we could carry virtually every election. Our nation’s founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and the sacred honor to give us our freedom. The least we could do is vote — and vote our values.
So as we approach the 239th Birthday of America, we should give thanks to the Lord for our God-given rights. May we not squander such freedom, nor let it sift through our fingers.
Jerry Newcombe is cohost/senior TV producer of Kennedy Classics. He has written/co-written 25 books. tiam.org jerrynewcombe.com @newcombejerry