Friday, July 4, 2014

The Declaration--by Linden Malki

July 4, 1776 was a turning point in the history of our country. We are still today struggling with the implications of what happened that day. It had been almost 20 years in the making; actual battles over who lived where and what kind of society they were building had been going on since before 1760. Most of the colonists had come to America to do something or make something that was different than what they had been doing. It wasn't just Englishmen; there were Spanish in the south and west, French in the Mississippi Valley, Dutch in New Amsterdam (that became New York) who brought the stories of St Nicholas; Germans and Swedes in the middle colonies, Africans almost everywhere. They had come as farmers, entrepeneurs, religious refugees, adventurers and explorers, indentured servants and slaves. In some ways they had freedoms that they had not had "back home", but still they were not on their own; the strings were being pulled from London. The political philosophy of the day was "mercantilism;" the idea that colonies exist for the benefit of the home country. The Englishmen knew their rights as English subjects, but they were not being respected.

There is no such thing as "government". There are assemblages of people who have acquired power and influence, and their own ideas as to what a central authority could or should be doing or not doing. I am often reminded of I Samuel 8, when the Israelites come to him and ask for a King. Samuel gives the folks a laundry list of what a King will do. Up to this point, the Israelites had not had a central authority other than God, as revealed by prophets and judges. One reason the people gave for wanting a king was the incompetence and corruption of Samuel's sons. What they did not stop to think of was that people are people; kings are people, bureaucrats are people, leaders of all kinds are people, each with upsides and downsides. What the American colonists knew was that the people in England who had authority over them were not listening, did not think of the colonists as real people, created by God. One reason many of them had emigrated is because they were not getting economic opportunities or religious freedom back home. What was started in 1776 wasn't perfect, but it did set forth a recognition of God's creation and both the potential and shortcomings of real people. Can we recognize today that God has made all of us with potentials and problems that we cannot deal with well without His strength, guidance, faith, hope and love?

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