Amendment I – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …
Each Fourth of July my thoughts turn back to our nation’s founding fathers. It amazes me that God blessed our original 13 colonies with men of such incredible talent, vision and fortitude. As a group they possessed a remarkable blend of abilities, probably unique in world history. And their passion for the freedom of man has forever affected both the history of America and the world at large.
While each of the founding fathers possessed distinct character traits, two of them – George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – had many things in common. Both were Virginians and gentlemen farmers. Both took pride in doing much of the architectural design for their beloved estates – Mount Vernon and Monticello. Both committed much of their lives to public service and would each come to serve as president of the United States. More importantly, both men understood God’s essential role in America’s hope for independence.
As the drafter of our Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” For Jefferson – and thus for America – the rationale for claiming national independence was the belief that freedom was a God-given right. Although the Declaration went on to list specific grievances against the British Crown as further support for colonial independence, those grievances were secondary to the premise that Americans have a right to be free because God had already endowed us with such a right.
While Jefferson’s words did much to fuel sentiment for the War of Independence, it fell to Washington to conduct that war as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and achieve military victory. His personal commitment to the cause was so deep that he refused any salary from the Continental Congress during his wartime service.
Washington was likewise convinced that America’s future success depended on divine providence and the godly demeanor of our citizens, as shown by the words of a prayer he sent to the governors of all 13 states near the end of the Revolutionary War. At the time, British troops were still quartered in the colonies and the final peace treaty was waiting to be signed, so the future of America was still uncertain at the time. Here’s an excerpt from Washington’s prayer:
“Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in thy holy protection, that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.” (Written at Newburg, New York, June 8, 1783)
Washington’s grasp of what our nation needed to succeed was insightful, if not prophetic. As we look at the domestic issues facing our nation today some 230 years after Washington penned the prayer above, it’s clear that many if not all of the issues threatening the internal fabric of our nation could be resolved if we earnestly practiced the traits of justice, mercy, charity (kindness), humility and peace(fullness) toward our fellow Americans.
May we join together in praying that such a spirit would be renewed in the hearts of Americans everywhere in our time – as Washington prayed in his time. It’s a model that has served our nation well for more than 230 years.
Keep the faith and be a blessing!
Maj. Dave Korinek, 2d Brigade (State Military Police) (CA)