by Don Ingwerson
Is July 4th just a day for barbecues, friends, and family?
It seemed that way to a friend of mine a few years ago at an Independence Day neighborhood gathering. He was very surprised to learn that most of the kids attending didn’t know why they were celebrating.
I remembered this incident and my friend’s astonishment when I visited Cambridge to celebrate a granddaughter’s graduation. Afterwards we visited a few of the many historic sites in the Boston area and I was really struck by the Minute Man display in the Minute Man National Historical Park. It vividly reminded me of the sacrifices and courage these farmers and merchantmen displayed in their fight for freedom.
Perhaps that’s why we need to remember the founding of our country. So that we are reminded of how others responded in a time of need and can stop and take stock of what we are doing today with the freedoms our forefathers struggled to attain for us.
As we celebrate the 240th 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 be mindful of 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!”