I have roamed the hallowed grounds of Mount Vernon, the home, gardens, fields and enterprises of George Washington that still tell the stories of a great American. His greatest story is our story, how the United States became a nation. He was neither a composer nor signer of our Declaration of Independence, but became the force behind it.
It was 236 years ago that brave Americans finally had enough of tyranny, so they drafted and signed a document for the ages. It was a declaration that placed their lives and fortunes in jeopardy. They did so with determination, and with reliance on Almighty God.
It only took three weeks to draft, revise and adopt it, but the ideas expressed were developed over years and couched in deep conviction. The context of the American grievance was a specific understanding about God, and such language found its way into the famous text.
They believed it was time for a nation to assume “the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” They wrote that men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” and appealed to the “Supreme Judge of the World” to vindicate their honorable intentions. Then there’s this: “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
The Founders believed and relied on a Creator God who was involved in the affairs of men and nations. They believed freedom is inherent in creation, not granted by government. The proper order is government subject to the people, and people subject to God. Sadly, modern America is infected with the notion that the people are subject to government, freedom is allowed by government, and God has no place in it. That is a recipe for tyranny.
There is a supreme, discerning judge of the world. These Patriots wanted the world to know their intentions were not of greed, power, or war-mongering. Before God, they just wanted freedom. They understood that God is capable of peering into the human heart. Rather than fearing that, it motivates us to live self-examined lives. May God give America leaders that have selfless, patriotic intentions.
The word “Providence” implies that God guides human history to the purpose and end for which he intends, and was Washington’s favorite name for God. He and his fellow statesmen believed that God’s hand was guiding our struggle for independence and freedom. Some pivotal events of the Revolutionary War were so improbable that it’s no wonder Washington favored this name.
Should not a nation founded with such ideas of God be guided by them as well? Despite the naysayers, this can be done without Congress establishing a religion. We seem to forget the next phrase of the First Amendment which prevents Congress from prohibiting free exercise of religion. In plain language it defines what Congress cannot do, but it has become a secularist tool to determine what the people cannot do. Perversely, it now restricts religious freedom rather than preserving it. The Founders neither practiced nor conceived such prohibition of God in the public arena.
Washington does have his own declaration. His family placed him in his final resting place in the family tomb at Mount Vernon. It is a quiet place to reflect while standing mere feet from the greatest American in history. The family chose these words of Jesus as Washington’s message to those who visit him there: “I am the resurrection, and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” That is real freedom!
God Bless America!