I confess it has been years since I actually read the Declaration of Independence. With all that is going on in our country and the European Union, I felt drawn to discover what we have learned over these past 240 years.
To my surprise and disappointment, my answer was ‘not much’! The struggles with a Congress unable to make decisions is still rampant, and the battle between the haves and the have-nots, the many forms of slavery, the desire for reconciliation and the fear of dictatorships all thrive today as well as in the past!
The Declaration of Independence was a vision intended to call people to live out its ideals. “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 them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
While our culture has changed over these past 240 years, so much remains to be done. Women have the right to vote, but still struggle in some states for reproductive rights over their own bodies. We honor the rights of some people of different sexual orientation, but the backlash is strong. Slavery was abolished, but we struggle with the slavery of poverty, of racial oppression, of trafficking, and of housing immigrant women and children in un-used prisons.
We do keep expanding “these truths” to an ever-widening circle of people. We believe, but still not enough. As Scripture says through Thomas: “I do believe; help my unbelieving”.
The ‘independence’ we need in this century is not from other countries, but from the oppressive cultures we have created. It is time to truly ‘hold these truths to be self-evident’ for all. It takes believing, working together for justice, and making our voices heard for equality to become life-giving, liberty-generating and happiness-stimulating for all.
I pray our great-grandchildren won’t look at the Declaration of Independence 240 years from now and question the level of progress made. I hope they will see that we and those who follow us have lived a moral standard they can be proud of.
May this Independence Day be an acknowledgement and celebration of our awareness of working toward independence for all. May Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness be the ideal of our personal lives and the gifts we offer others.