In 1776, the Second Continental Congress officially declared independence from Great Britain on behalf of the 13 American Colonies. This historic event started off what is known as the American Experiment. For many years, back in Europe, great political theorists had attempted to create political theories based off of the question, “What would government look like if it were built from the ground up?”
Moving away from the idea of a slowly evolving political system based off of centuries of continuity of government, these thinkers wondered what government would look like if it were to be built from scratch. The best of these thinkers, particularly individuals like Paine and Locke, emphasized individual freedom as the basis for their theories of government. It was Locke who argued that all people have the natural right to defend their “life, health, liberty, [and] possessions” which eventually became the American belief in all people’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The American Experiment sought to actually do what these philosophers had thought about. What would a free society look like with its government built from scratch? Of course the Founding Fathers did use ideas from other governments, but in large part, they used the society that would become the United States of America as a tabula rasa, a blank slate on which they could construct their new government based on the ideals of freedom and justice.
But this political belief on which the American Revolution was based had part of its foundation in Christian theology. While it is naive to argue that the Founding Fathers specifically built their new government on biblical beliefs, it is certainly true that the political theories that they used were themselves based, in part, on Christian theology. Locke in particular was influenced by Protestant interpretations of the Bible: namely that all people were created equal by God and the notion of Christian freedom as explained by the Apostle Paul.
We believe, both as Americans and as Christians that all people are created equal, endowed with specific rights by their Creator. And following in the footsteps of Paul, this includes our belief that Christ has set us free.
So this weekend, celebrate the freedom that is afforded to you by the American Experiment. But don’t forget that ultimately, as Christians, our freedom is rooted in the love of God. We are all created in his image and our freedom in Christ is ultimately a freedom to serve God. So as you are watching the fireworks and going to the parades and celebrating the freedom that you have in this country, take a moment or two to think about the freedom that God has granted you. Take a moment to thank him for creating you in his image and take a moment to that God for the freedom that Christ has given you.
Reverend David Shearer