Independence Day should be an event where families and friends gather for barbecues and community firework shows, celebrate our country, and be grateful for its rich Judeo-Christian heritage. But this year, it’s hard not to be a bit overwhelmed with how divided our country has become.
As we reflect on America’s 245th birthday, we should remember that the United States is unique among nations. Ours is a country held together not by a shared history or ancestry, but by a commitment to founding principles. In years past, these principles united us all, no matter our political party, race, or religion.
But something has fundamentally changed. Although most Americans would readily agree with the bold claims found in the Declaration of Independence, the meaning of the words now separates us.
In light of our country’s birthday, let’s remind ourselves of the two most famous lines in our nation’s founding document.
“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 these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
There is so much to think about in those two lines. They include an entire worldview about who we are, why governments even exist, and who holds the ultimate authority.
When our founding fathers wrote these words, they intended them to be interpreted in a particular way. Anyone interested in understanding the true meaning of the words merely has to read them in their historical context and see how they applied in practice during the time. In short, those words convey something specific. They should not be subject to our personal interpretation.
The Bible attaches great importance to the meaning of words. John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” When God sought to reveal himself to us, he used words that were supposed to convey truths about reality. He didn’t intend for us to be confused about his character or what he expected of us.
Yet Satan, the great deceiver, has always tried to get us to doubt the meaning of God’s words. Remember his tempting words to Eve? “Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
For decades, progressive courts have embraced the theory of a “living constitution.” This legal theory allows justices to change the meaning of the constitutional text under the belief that words evolve and change over time to adapt to new circumstances. Conveniently, this makes formal amendments to the Constitution all but unnecessary.
A growing segment of our political and intellectual classes love this idea of reinterpreting the meaning of words. Terms like “equality,” “justice,” “sex,” “racism,” “woman,” and even the word “love” now have different meanings depending on who is using them. Some people realize this, but many others don’t realize the words they hear someone say don’t mean what they think they mean.
The LGBTQ+ movement has employed these linguistic gymnastic techniques with perfection. “Equality” no longer means every human has equal value and worth; it means every sexual behavior should be treated as equivalent. “Marriage” doesn’t represent the union of one man and one woman, but merely a legal partnership of “loving people,” regardless of gender. Likewise, the word “sex” no longer means male and female based on biology, but unlimited genders based on self-identification.
Sadly, using the theory of a living constitution, activist judges have used each of these word reinterpretations to upend the meaning of our founding documents.
America has a reputation for being a stable nation precisely because it has been a nation of laws. But how can we maintain that stability if our most foundational principles have no concrete meaning? The answer is, we can’t.
So what do we do? We all need to ask some hard questions. What do we believe in? What are we willing to defend, and at what cost? What kind of country do we want to leave to our children? It is all going to depend on what we collectively do. Our Constitutional Republic is not going to save itself.
Now is not the time to stay quiet. We must stand up with courage, conviction, and civility towards those with which we disagree. Don’t believe people who say there is no hope. Let’s follow our national motto, put our ultimate trust in God, but then act accordingly.
This Fourth of July, let’s take our cue from the men who signed our Declaration of Independence. As they concluded that magnificent document, they solemnly appealed: “for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
It took great sacrifices to birth this nation. It is going to take the same to save it.