By ROY HARRIS
The dying coals of thousands of charcoal grills have done their jobs well. The satisfying memories of barbecue chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs and homemade ice cream slowly fade as the warm July sun disappears in the western Tennessee sky. Its’ dusky dark and the anticipation has been building for hours. The surrounding hills are manned with blankets, lawn chairs and open bed pickup trucks. Excited young artists paint an array of light pictures with glow sticks and fire lit hand held sparklers. A familiar thud summands all eyes skyward. Boom! The sky fills with a rainbow of colors beginning their annual parade across the horizon.
It must be the fourth of July “a date that will live in infamy.” Every year it comes and goes just as it has for over 230 years. Why is it important? Should it mean more than just a day off from work or a long holiday weekend?
America is different from all other countries in the world. It is different by design. It began with a belief that we are all created equal in God’s eyes. A belief that our Creator afforded us certain irreversible rights: The right to live, live free and pursue what we believe might make us happy. Those beliefs were so important they were declared so in the second paragraph of the first document that birthed our nation, The Declaration of Independence.
After winning our freedom from Great Britain, our founding fathers saw the wisdom of creating safeguards to protect our rights. They added ten amendments to the newly written constitution called The Bill of Rights. All ten are important. It was not an accident that the first amendment affirmed the most fundamental rights held so dear to us all. The first sentence of the first amendment protects a freedom that has molded the moral and spiritual fabric of our nation throughout the generations. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
In 1831 the famous French writer Alex de Tochqueville wanted to find the secret of America’s greatness. After looking at America’s rivers, harbors, fertile farmland, endless virgin forests, rich mines, vast commerce, and a host of other natural and educational resources, he came to the conclusion that the secret to America’s greatness was not found in any or all of these. Not until he went into the churches of America did he understand the secret of her genius and power. He concluded that America is great because America is good, and if America ceased to be good, America will cease to be great!
What makes America good?
We enjoy a standard of living far above most of the world. We truly are a blessed people. One reason we are blessed is because of our generosity. Whether earthquake, tornado, hurricane, tsunami, famine or a thousand year flood, Americans are first responders bringing food, shelter, clothing and hope to those who desperately need it. Why do Americans do this? America’s goodness shines in these times of need. America’s goodness is found in her moral fiber and her sense of decency and fair play. Where does she learn these moral values which seem to automatically kick in during times of crisis and need?
I believe ole Alex was right. The greatness of America is not found in all her wonderful rich resources, though they are many and valuable. America is not great because of her democratic form of government. Though not perfect, most of us wouldn’t want to live under any other. America is great because she is good. America is good because of her deeply held convictions of right and wrong and wanting to do the right thing. How does she measure right and wrong and know to do the right thing?
Back to that first amendment, the freedom of worship. America’s houses of worship served as her first schools, community meeting halls, polling places and hospitals. They still serve in a multitude of ways to help our communities. Through our houses of worship, responsibilities to God, country and fellow man are clearly and unashamedly proclaimed. Our houses of worship provide a moral barometer to help us weather cultural and economic storms in each generation.
We are blessed to live in a great country which affords so many great freedoms. Our country is great because she is good. Her goodness can be traced through her churches back to the source of all goodness. The holy scriptures teach us that “every good gift comes from our heavenly Father who never changes.” Our national Pledge of Allegiance reminds us that we are “one nation under God.” Our coins and dollars speak to us each day declaring that it is “in God we trust.” Our Declaration of Independence reminds us that our concept of freedom as a nation was shaped by the work of our Creator. Let us always be grateful for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness afforded us in this great nation. If we continue to be a good America we will always be a great America. We can proclaim with confidence and affection those powerful words: “God Bless America.” America truly is a GREAT nation! America the Great