Next week our nation will celebrate another birthday.
On July 4, 1776 fifty-six members of the Continental Congress, representing thirteen colonies, signed the Declaration of Independence proclaiming autonomy. It was the culmination of a political process that began as a protest against Britain's oppression of colonial trading, manufacturing, and political liberty. Ultimately, the signing of that Declaration led to a revolutionary war and the birth of the United States.
If you've studied American History you know there's no question that the colonists were justified with their grievances. The British Redcoats were stealing from the American settlers, abusing them, and imposing exorbitant taxes. And there wasn't much help from the courts because they were corrupt and influenced by bribes. That's why the colonists revolted and chartered the Declaration of Independence.
The stand these fifty-six signers took against British oppression isn't well known, but it should be. I want to read one sentence from the last paragraph of the Declaration: "And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."
To most of us that statement seems benign and doesn't raise our blood pressure one point. But to the signers of that Declaration it did more than raise their blood pressure. Let's look at what happened to these fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Apparently, five of the signers were captured by the British, charged with treason, and tortured before they died. Another twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the revolutionary army; another had two sons captured by the British. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the war.
Why do you think our forefathers were willing to risk their lives by signing the Declaration of Independence? Maybe they believed freedom was infinitely more desirable than slavery and bondage, and that freedom was worth fighting for.
The document they signed was also a declaration of separation. When calling for independence, the framers and signers made it clear that they wouldn't be tied to Britain.
The document reads: "We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved."
These Patriots knew they couldn't be free while they remained colonies of the British Empire. They had to overthrow England's tyranny if they were to be fully free. So they declared their sovereignty and, under the leadership of George Washington, fought against the forces of British oppression until they won separation.
Today, the citizens of our nation face many obstacles -- too many and varied to list here - on their way to the "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" spoken of in the Declaration. It is my sincere hope and prayer that we may be able to find a way out of our turmoil before we face another Bunker Hill moment.
Happy Birthday, America ... May God truly shed His grace o