July 4th has always has been special to me, not only because of the freedom America was celebrating, but also for the memories of an earlier America. I vividly remember one special July 4th in Glenview, Ky – on the banks of the Ohio River where the paddle wheel Louisville boat was chugging up the river loaded with passengers and the Calliope was playing Dixieland music. Two hundred people with dogs, horses, and buggies gathered on the grassy river bank, wearing straw hats and holding American flags, while the high school band played Stars and Strips Forever. Everyone was a neighbor and the ice cream social kept everyone cool and pleasant. What a fun memory!
Perhaps that’s why we need to remember the founding of our country. So that we are reminded of how it is possible for people to come together in neighborly camaraderie to celebrate today the freedoms our forefathers struggled to attain for us.
As we celebrate the 241st anniversary as an independent nation, we do have many things to celebrate and to be thankful for. One of the bedrocks of our country, which many other nations tragically lack, is the commitment to religious freedom we have maintained through the years. Yet I have learned such commitment requires fresh renewal with each successive generation. We can’t take for granted that all of our citizens will understand and appreciate this crucial component of our history, nor recognize how vital it is that it should continue.
That being said, it’s important to note that America has always been a religious country and today more than half of the American people still attend a place of worship each week. At the heart of religion is prayer, with even more Americans praying than going to church. And according to composite surveys, 85% to 94% pray regularly. So as Independence Day approaches, we can assess the progress gained by having the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause and encourage policymakers working on solving America’s social problems to remember the positive effects the practice of religion has had and continues to have on our nation.
One such positive effect is shown in the life of Mary Baker Eddy, a New England woman who found such spiritual strength through her understanding of God that she was able to found a church even before women were allowed to vote. She perhaps had an even deeper sense of religious freedom, including a conviction that a right understanding of divine Love could itself free the individual from all kinds of injustice, including ill health. Her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, is full of messages of finding freedom – especially from fear which can cause sickness. It says “We should master fear, instead of cultivating it” because “sickness, disease, and death proceed from fear.” By contrast, she says of God that: “Only the action of [divine] Truth, Life, and Love can give harmony.”
Many thousands have been healed by prayerfully pondering thoughts like these that elucidate the inspired writings of the Bible and the healings demonstrated by Jesus.
It seems to me that July 4th is a great time to rekindle that deep appreciation for freedom, which our forefathers gave to us, and to also value freedom’s deeper, spiritual promise. As Eddy encouraged us to realize, now is the time to “…accept the ‘glorious liberty of the children of God,’ and be free!”