Week of July 3, 2016
Here’s hoping all of you are having a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July Weekend! This weekend is such a great opportunity to get outside and spend some time with family and friends and to enjoy this great nation of ours, so please do so! I certainly plan on it! This being said, I would like to share with you some thoughts on this Independence Day; something you might also want to digest and chew on right along with those brats and burgers you will be cooking on the grill.
If you read the words of the Declaration of Independence you will see the following: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Now, for some citizens within our country (a vocal minority, I believe) the words, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” have come to mean nothing other than independence from any religious authority and/or civil law and order. This is certainly not true! The truth is: the “Declaration of Independence” is also a “Declaration of Dependence” on these very things! Allow me to explain:
Our Constitution, as it is written, specifically bases our United States government, not on the “Divine Right of Kings” where in the past there have been certain abuses of power, but rather on the “Divine Right of Persons.” What this means is that each person has value regardless of who they are, and this value comes directly from the fact that it is God (“the Creator”) who made us! What our Declaration of Independence really says is that we as a nation are independent of dictators, but this is precisely because we are dependent upon God. (Please reread the Declaration and understand what “self-evident” means).
Our founding fore-fathers (and fore-mothers) had the wisdom and insight to know that God (and only God) ensures our human dignity as persons, a dignity which no government or human authority can authorize by itself. If the State were solely responsible for our rights and liberties and defines who each person is, then the State can also take these rights and liberties and definitions away. This, is not what our nation was founded upon! Government (if it is properly working) is called to enact laws and enforce common order to support and defend what God has already given us, unalienable rights. This is where rightful Civil Law and Order comes in with its proper authority, limits, and function. Civil Law and Order then, is needed and necessary for us! (so much for total Anarchists.) If, however, a Civil Law seeks to undermine God (i.e. religious freedom) or legislate God out of the Constitution, this would actually undermine what our Declaration of Independence is about and ultimately destroy democracy itself. The “separation of Church and State” has been misunderstood and abused by many to the point that people no longer understand the intimate connection between God and nation, religion and politics. There is no such thing as a “Saving democracy,” rather “God alone saves” and so democracy is meant to be at the service of God/religion by protecting those religious freedoms, promoting justice, supporting charity, safeguarding dignity and ensuring equality for everyone.
In the past 40-50 years, our nation has been witnessing a disturbing trend where religion is being completely divorced from political circles. Too often, religion is being forced to serve democracy, whereas, it is democracy that should serve religion, the foundation and guiding principle of our government itself! We as Christians, Jews, Muslims, and any other legitimate organization of religious people should continue to strive to keep religious freedom as a top priority for our nation because this is what actually protects our country. It does not destroy it. We must not put a complete separation of Church from State, religious values from political circles. Instead, we need to ensure a healthy dialog that protects the identity and role of both. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “In countries where God is most denied; man (humanity) is most enslaved.” Let’s not forget what Communism, Nazism and Fascism has historically done to us. These are sobering words and important thoughts to digest on!
So, on this 4th of July weekend, as we celebrate our “Independence” as a nation, let us not forget to also celebrate our “Dependence” on God who makes our nation possible. May God bless our wonderful United States and let us praise God that we have the freedom to grill burgers and brats at all!
Fr. LeRoy Scheierl