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The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “Losing Evangelicals: How Christians are Leaving Jesusland” 

The United States of America was founded on the principle of liberty. There is a difference between personal freedom and national liberty. The first definition of liberty in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary is instructive to us:

“Freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.”[1]

Our nation’s founding document is the Declaration of Independence. I wonder how many Christians have actually read our country’s birth certificate. Even if you have, read these words again for the first time:

“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.”

If something is self-evident, then by definition it is “evident in itself without proof or demonstration.”[2] Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the signatories of this great document did not feel the need to explain the truth of the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

One may be inclined to dismiss this as the Founders avoiding explaining this.  However, in the opening paragraph, they were careful to acknowledge the enormity and historical significance of this Declaration:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

So why the short history lesson? It is needed because we as a nation have forsaken the truth; we have rejected God’s truth. There is no way our country would have succeeded had it culturally rejected God: 

“…it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…” President George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation 1789 

The Founding Fathers recognized the Providence of God and the importance of following biblical truths. In a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush on August 28, 1811, John Adams wrote: 

“Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and of all free governments, but of social felicity under all governments and in all the combinations of human society.”[3] 

Felicity is a word rarely used in the American lexicon, but it is constantly and desperately sought. It means “the state of being happy, especially in a high degree; bliss.”[4] 

Does that describe our current culture? Is American society as a whole experiencing happiness in a high degree? The answer is no and the reason is moral relativism always brings disappointment.

 

[1] Random House Unabridged Dictionary (2019), s.v. “Liberty.”

[2] Ibid. s.v. “Self-evident.”

[3] Charles Francis Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams – Second President of the United States (Boston: Little, Brown, & Co., 1854), Vol. IX, p. 636.

[4] Random House Unabridged Dictionary (2019), s.v. “Felicity.”