By Rev. Walter Albritton
Every Sunday my church family sings “God Bless America!” Every Sunday? Yes, every Sunday. Like it or not, it has become ritual for my congregation.
I view it as a prayer in song, a prayer of gratitude for the many ways God has blessed our land. And it is a prayer of petition, people asking God to continue blessing America.
As we celebrate the 4th of July we should move beyond celebration to gratitude, giving thanks to God for the favor he has shown our nation. Fireworks are fine although it grieves me that on this one day of the year we will spend over $600 million on fireworks. In light of our national debt that seems ridiculous.
When our children were small we usually bought some fireworks. It seemed the thing to do. Everybody was doing it. But I have not bought any fireworks for many years. It is enough, and safer, to watch the dazzling displays on television.
Like many other Americans our family will gather for a cookout on the 4th and enjoy hot dogs, ribs, watermelon, ice cream and ice tea. We will groan about the heat and the flies and thank God if we get a little rain.
The celebration of this national holiday gives us a break from the heat of summer and a chance to thank God that the great American “experiment” is still working.
Though secularists continue to rewrite American history, it remains true that our ancestors came to America to find religious freedom and to establish a Christian nation. They invoked the help of almighty God to build a nation founded on biblical principles.
While there continues to be much public debate about the Ten Commandments, there is no doubt that our founding fathers considered the Ten Commandments the essential foundation stones of American government.
President James Madison, who was called the “Father of Our Constitution,” said, “We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
I am convinced that the more we surrender our reverence for the Ten Commandments, the more the moral fabric of our nation will unravel.
Ignorance is a dangerous thing. Some, for example, believe that “separation of church and state” is part of our constitution, but the phrase does not appear anywhere in the constitution. The brave men who signed the Declaration of Independence did not wish for America to be separated from God. They believed that America could not survive without the aid of almighty God. Historic records affirm that they believed this. Wisely our founding fathers insisted that “the state” should not be under the rule of “the church.”
Despite our moral slide toward decadence, there is much about America for which we can be thankful. Every time we handle money we are confronted with our motto, “In God We Trust.” This motto reminds us that our trust must not be in the power of the state but in the power of almighty God.
Religious holidays are recognized nationally. Good Friday and Christmas are actually Christian holy days. Though they are grossly commercialized, they are still woven into our culture, reminding us of the birth of our Savior and his crucifixion for our sins.
Thanksgiving remains a national holiday. From the beginning our presidents have called upon our people to give thanks to God for our blessings on this November Thursday.
Chaplains continue to be appointed to serve in Congress and in the Armed Forces. [Prior to July 4, 2016], the Senate Chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, included this petition in his opening prayer in the Senate Chamber: “As all Americans prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, may we be forever grateful for the benefits we share as citizens of a common Nation with uncommon diversity. Help us to work together to build a better community as a light for the world.” And may we all say, Amen!
I am proud to be a citizen of a nation in which godly men of the cloth have the honor of offering spiritual guidance to our senators and other congress members. Thankfully our nation recognizes that our military forces need spiritual guidance. Some of the finest men I have known have served as military chaplains.
The phrase, “one nation under God,” remains in our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag even though some folks want it removed. I feel a surge of pride every time I salute the flag. Too many people have died defending the flag for me to gaze upon it with anything but reverence. Those who burn the flag disgrace themselves and deserve to be punished for such sacrilege.
While secularists wish to secularize America by removing all references to God, I do not believe they will succeed because most Americans are not willing to renounce their godly heritage. Most of us want to live in a nation that is “under God.”
We may then on this Fourth of July invoke the blessing of almighty God on what William Penn called “An Holy Experiment in Government.” This experiment remains a noble enterprise that deserves our support and our prayers. So enjoy the fireworks and watermelons but join me in praying earnestly, God bless America!
The Rev. Walter Albritton is Pastor of Congregational Care at St. James United Methodist Church in Montgomery.