The Declaration of Independence, 4th of July and the MTR

Independence Day

July 4, 2010

Last night at dinner Team Montague “celebrated” Independence Day. The celebration was mostly a short review of the key dates and people of the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War. Following the review we read from the Declaration of Independence and talked about some our “aha’s” or “musts”. There were no fireworks, at least not at the table, not last night. That will come tonight.

A few thoughts from our time that I want to share …

First, I think having a “view” or “philosophy” on the celebration of holidays is important for a family. Our nation generally has two types of national holidays: Historical and Religious. The risk with all holidays is that we embrace the ceremony and forget the substance. We love the nostalgia of tradition and diminish the significance of the facts, the story, the sacrifice.

So, in our house, I want to celebrate all holidays by reminding my family of the substance and story of the day. Independence Day is NOT simply cookouts and fireworks. Independence Day is remembering the story and courage and history and implication of our nation’s birth. And, as our family does that, we are subtly reminded that holidays, both types of holidays, are rooted in reality and not simply in cultural norms and fairy tales.

And as I remind them of the reality of historical holidays I am also reminding the family that religious holidays are also rooted in reality. Just as Independence Day is about facts and truth and reality… so are Christmas and Easter. Just as we recognize and discuss and interpret the reality of the work of our forefathers in our nation’s history, so will we recognize, discuss and interpret the reality of Jesus’ virgin birth, perfect life, death and resurrection in our spiritual history. Easter is no more an honoring of the Easter Bunny and Christmas is no more an honoring of Santa Claus than is Independence Day an honoring of fireworks. So we will celebrate both accordingly.

Second, from reading the Declaration of Independence, we learned a three really important “musts”. MUST #1… thoughtful communication and respect must be given to people in the matters of conflict or division.

Thomas Jefferson (and others) began the document with the following introduction: When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another … a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

In conflict, “elite” leaders (such as our nation’s founders) demonstrate the importance of expressing differences rationally, systematically and with grace and class. Conflict does not have to be worked out with simple emotion and aggression… and certainly should not start that way. And the power to express differences rationally comes from the truth and validity upon which our arguments stand. Often in life I notice (both in others and in myself) that the weakest (least “right”) arguments are the ones that are accompanied with the most emotion and volatility among their bearers. And it is the strongest (most right and fair) arguments that are accompanied with the least volatility and aggression. Point: The power is in the “truth” not in the person, presentation, sincerity, emotion or hostility. May we take this mindset into our families and friendships and schools.

And how much more so should this apply to our spiritual life? In matters of morality and obedience and God’s word our power is simply in the truth of God’s word in our lives and not in finger pointing self-righteousness.

Third, we learn that our nation began with this awesome belief that ALL people – BECAUSE we are Created by the SAME God – are EQUAL and have the same rights to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness as another. Hear these famous and beautiful words from the second paragraph of our Declaration of Independence:

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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,…

How great a nation to be founded on such a principle. And here is Must #2… Since this charge comes ultimately from God (the Creator-Endower) and not from Thomas Jefferson, this call to secure these rights to all people falls NOT ONLY upon governments, but also upon the PEOPLE of God… individuals. You and me. The “securing of these rights” MUST be my concern, and not only a government or district concern.

The MTR believes that all children are created equal (white, black, Hispanic, Asian, majority, minority, urban, suburban, public, charter, private, poor and rich) simply because all children are created by the same God. God says in Proverbs 22:2, “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord God is the Maker of them all.” And therefore, ALL children have the same right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. And since education is a common ingredient to each of these, WE BELIEVE it is a MUST that ALL children have the right to sit before a great teacher within a great school.

And we believe that it is not only the responsibility of the state to provide this right, but it is also the responsibility of His people, individuals, to protect, provide and produce these rights. And we believe there is no better way to produce this right than by great leaders choosing to become great teachers for the children most likely to miss this opportunity.

Last – and I love this part – see the community of ownership of this ideal among our leaders… each taking personal responsibility of this ideal as more important to themselves than their very own honor, net worth and even life itself. See the very last words of this document:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

And so how did this pledge “play out”? In great victory, we now know.

So, Must #3 is that for victory to be accomplished it must require the greatest of commitments – the greatest sacrifice of fortune, reputation and life – within a sense of mutual community. Every child can have a great teacher and a great school. However, the cost and commitment will be high. It is not for the weak or faint of heart. Great causes never were. Never will be.

And does this not point us to Christ himself? Who for the sake of mankind to have the right to come close to God not only pledged but also lost His honor, fortune and life itself.

We now come with the same mission…. We have come at this time to uphold not simply the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, but to uphold this common mission that comes from Above-our-constitution with our lives, fortunes, and honor. Jefferson, Washington, Adams in a sense… and more importantly Christ in full, made Himself poor so that others might be rich; put Himself at risk so that others might be secure; put Himself away so that others might be brought in.

This is our heritage. This is our mission. This is our Story. These are our Musts.