The gameshow “Jeopardy” was in the headlines. Seems that none of the contestants knew the word “hallowed” that appears in the Lord’s Prayer.

There’s a lot Americans don’t know these days. A school board doesn’t know the difference between the Bible and pornography. A guy makes a documentary, “What is a Woman?” because people don’t know anymore. People don’t know any better than to do whatever is right in their own eyes. This willful ignorance has implications for the freedoms which Americans celebrate this time of year. “The ultimate threat to the American republic will be Americans,” cultural critic Os Guinness writes. “The problem is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor.”

America is still an experiment in liberty. It has been a shining city on a hill for those seeking freedom and prosperity. That’s why immigrants, whether legal or not, long to reach our shores. But liberty is not guaranteed. “Sustainable freedom depends on the character of the rulers and the ruled alike, and on the vital trust between them,” Guinness writes. “The constitution should be supported and sustained by the faith, character and virtue of the entire citizenry.”

Loss of virtue erodes American freedoms. TSA checkpoints, increasing taxes and national debt, and cancel culture signal loss of freedom. People with sincerely held religious beliefs lose their jobs when they refuse to cooperate with a lie. People are subjected to critical theory, which values people based on skin color – e.g., Harvard faces a lawsuit for discriminating against white and Asian American student applicants. Politicians hold citizens financially liable for providing public benefits to non-citizens, who are invited to vote for those politicians.

Such loss of freedom is derived from a dangerous and sharp disagreement about the ultimate authority for values and meaning. British philosopher G.K. Chesterton anticipated the risk that America faces: “Men will more and more realize that there is no meaning in democracy if there is no meaning in anything; and that there is no meaning in anything if the universe has not a center of significance and an authority that is the author of our rights.” The increase in secularism, a religion in itself, means values are relative to the cultural moment, and the end justifies the means. Will America rebel against the Authority, deny the Author?

Christians believe a society that knows and respects God-given values and His created order is good for all. But preserving America and sustaining freedom is a secondary goal. Like Jesus, who looked with compassion over Jerusalem saying, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,” so do we appeal with compassion to our fellow Americans. Our primary message is simple. “Seek the Lord while He may be found” (Isa. 55:6). Find Him, and you find freedom.