Independence Day Homily

What is the most important and the most famous sentence ever coined in the English language? I believe it was a declarative sentence, of thirty-five words, published two hundred and thirty-five years ago today.

“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 these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Like a passage of Sacred Scripture, this sentence from the Declaration of Independence was more profound, and would effect more providential good, than its human authors ever imagined.

In their original context, these words from the Declaration of Independence were written to justify the American colonies’ separation from the English crown. At that time, many people believed in the divine right of kings, that a monarch had been invested by God with supreme authority to rule. There was precedent for this in the Old Testament, where God chose Saul, David, Solomon, and others to rule His people as anointed kings. In declaring that “all men are created equal,” the Founding Fathers were rejecting the idea that some men are born royal while others are born common. They further asserted that God Himself endows every man with certain rights, and that any government which deprives men of these rights may be justly replaced by its people. In this way, the signers justified the American Revolution.

How much did the Founding Father reflect on how their words about the equality of all men applied to men of color, such as those enduring intergenerational slavery? How much did they consider what these God-given rights required for the female segment of mankind? I would say that these words, like a passage of Sacred Scripture, carried truths more profound than their human authors knew.

These were providential words, for they have been, and continue to be, instrumental in the work of advancing and defending the rights and dignity of all people, from conception to natural death, in our country and around the world. Wherever our nation has failed to embody these words, we look back with shame; but wherever we have honored human dignity, these represent our proudest moments. Martin Luther King Jr. called these words our nation’s creed, and like him we have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “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….”

This Fourth of July, let us thank God for this great gift to our country. Let us praise God for endowing each one of us with dignity and rights which every person and every government must respect. And in the future, let us remember and remind our neighbors, that if our country allows government and men to become our gods, human dignity and human rights will be swiftly brushed aside. Like the Psalmist, may our country always say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,my God, in whom I trust.”

One Response to “Independence Day Homily”

  1. victorfeltes Says:

    President Abraham Lincoln’s thoughts on the Founders’ providential words:

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