Red, White and You
Thomas Jefferson knew what he was talking about. In our Declaration of Independence, written with a profound conviction and belief in freedom, Jefferson makes a scathing indictment of the abuses inflicted by the king of Great Britain. In what would change world history, he justifies the decision of the 13 colonies to sever their ties.
In the document, Jefferson refers to divine power and presence with words familiar to his audience — “Nature’s God,” the “laws of nature,” the “Creator,” “Divine Providence,” and the “Supreme Judge of the World.”
In the spirit of the Enlightenment, Jefferson, who was not a conventional Christian, made the following recommendation to his nephew Peter Carr in August of 1787. “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”
Our third president used what God gave him, an intellect. He argued with Christian doctrine and dogma of the time. He was not disrespectful of religion; he just did what we can (and should) do today: look at our current social justice issues in the name of Jesus and ask boldly if what we are seeing and doing today as a nation is or is not in keeping with the Son of God’s radical inclusion of all—widows, orphans, the homeless, the disenfranchised, the broken, the forgotten and the unvoiced. Jefferson wouldn’t stand for the “dummying down” or the over-simplification of religion. We shouldn’t either.
Jefferson usually did not speak publicly on religion. At times, however, he would speak to the public dimension of religion by sharing a widespread belief that God’s will was made evident in nature, including the nature of human beings. Jefferson did make this clear: God’s will is made manifest in the actions of the American people.
What is your action? Hearing the gospels, or, specifically, in hearing of the gospels and the life of service to others that Jesus Himself lived, how will God’s will be manifested in you? What you will see today? More so, what will you act upon today?
It is easy for so many to poke at religion rather than do the far more challenging task of actually working with it for the betterment not only of our nation, but also for the betterment of the nations of the world.
Look at this day, Independence Day. Who needs independence? You do. We all do. Using Jefferson’s words, we, like those he wrote and spoke to, need to follow a liberating Jesus. His social justice system was unlike anything the world experienced and when we follow His leadership, we are, in time, liberated from what hurts us and others.
I think one of the worst things Jefferson did was keep quiet on the subject of religion. He had much to say. You should, too.
Patrick Henry, another American revolutionary, said, “It is when people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.”
Let’s hear Henry and be like Jefferson. Do not forget God or His Son’s call for social justice. Speak up. Speak out. And then, with your church or a church that inspires you, do something about it.
This blog first appeared in The Susquehanna Independent on July 4, 2018.