The Fires of Freedom
“The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
— John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776
The skies were already dark as a handful of us walked down to the end of the street to watch our town’s fireworks display. From that vantage point we could see not only our own local celebration of our nation’s two-hundred and forty-first birthday, but that of Bakersfield, far in the distance, as well. In between these two locations, random candles sailed into the sky, lit by individuals (revolutionaries in their own small way) hoping not to be detected by the drones that were reportedly policing for illegal fireworks. All these together repeatedly burst into their various colors to commemorate the day.
John Adam’s prescient anticipation of such celebrations only missed the mark by two days. The second of July 1776 was when the Continental Congress, in which Adams served as a representative from Massachusetts, had passed the resolution to declare independence from Great Britain. It was on the fourth, however, that the language of Thomas Jefferson, penned immortally in that great Declaration, was approved and the resolution made public.
Nevertheless, as I watched the fireworks from two cities and a “handful of rebels” light up the night sky, I was once again impressed by the foresight of Adams, that great “colossus of Independence” as he was called by Thomas Jefferson. Such men lived in those heady days we teach about in our schools and take special pains to remember every July 4th. It is fitting that we do so. Today, with so many voices striking a discordant note about the noble experiment in democracy that became the United States of America, it is more important than ever to remember both the men and the moment of our Independence, as well as the charge they gave us to keep this republic.
Freedom is a fragile thing, and yet so costly. This came home to me as I stood beside two soldiers, my step-son and his friend, both members of the USMC, as I watched Adam’s prophetic lights illuminate the night sky for the two-hundredth and forty-first time. Freedom did not come free but it was purchased through great sacrifice and toil, paid for by the blood of patriots, men and women who gave their all to secure those liberties that are still defended by the lives of our best and bravest today.
Whatever one’s politics may be, or how flawed the republic, there can be no doubt to the earnest student of history that our nation is unique from any other. It is not held together by a common ethnicity or religion, but by a particular set of propositions that define the values upon which our great republic is built. Imperfect as she may be, this nation has survived longer under one constitution than any other in the history of the world. The times in which our nation was shaped are indeed different than the times in which we live, but the immutable principles of human worth and dignity at the core of or founding documents still serve as a strong foundation for human flourishing today. The self-evident truths upon which our nation was built are still self-evident today, regardless of the fact that there are those who desire to resign truth to the dustbin of history along with our great founding principles. The reason some things do not change, cannot change, is because they are simply right and good and true.
So, before one thinks to tinker with what came by divine providence, at a time when the brightest minds of liberty ever assembled labored exhaustively to secure this great nation, the question should be asked, “Can we improve upon what has stood as a great bulwark of freedom for over two centuries?” It is my contention that we do not have the spiritual or intellectual capital present in our great republic to improve on what better men labored to give us. Rather, let us be thankful that we have such a nation and see to it that we keep the charge to guard our nation, our liberty, and our freedom, so long as we have breath to do so.
Dr. Randy Bunch is the pastor of West Kern Christian Center, located at 1000 6th Street in Taft, California, as well as a graduate advisor and adjunct professor at Summit Bible College in Bakersfield, California. He is the author of several books, including his new devotional, Immutable: Changeless Truth for a Changing World. For more information, or to purchase your copy, go to immuntablebook.com. For more information on the ministries of WKCC, you can go the ministry’s website at wkcconnect.org.