The Gift of Freedom

A few weekends ago, while exploring the countryside in Pennsylvania, my parents and I stumbled upon an old log church. As I wandered around the cemetery (not something I typically do!) I was amazed by what I found, including gravestones that commemorated several men that had served in the Revolutionary War!

In fact, this modest cemetery in Bedford County, PA, had gravestones for men who had served in every military conflict from the Revolutionary War to the present day.

I was humbled by the hundreds of years of service, and at least one life that was lost in action, from this small community.

We’ve seen a lot of strife this year. But on this Veteran’s Day, I hope every American can pause in gratitude for all those who have gone before us and served to protect and defend our country and our freedom.

It may be an overused saying but that’s because it’s true—freedom isn’t free, and so many have served to allow the rest of us to live the life we choose, to worship the way we want, and to pursue happiness as we see fit. We can make all the typical disclaimers about how America isn’t perfect (of course it’s not!), and we have so many problems (we do and we should seek cultural and policy solutions), but we as Americans are privileged and blessed with a measure of freedom (and prosperity) that the vast majority of the human race has never experienced.

I offer my thanks and gratitude to the servicemen of Bedford County—and all who have served, including my family members—thank you! You inspire me to cherish my freedom and work towards an America that ensures rights and opportunities for all people.

Post Script

Freedom is incredibly important, but it isn’t everything. For the Christian, it is an incredible blessing to live in a land of religious liberty, but our citizenship ultimately resides in heaven.

A few other gravestones at the old log church inspired me on this note. Seeing the witness of believers who were born nearly 200 years before me, and lived in a vastly different world than I know and yet clung to the same promises from God’s word that I do, was very moving.

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.”

“Preserve me O God, for in thee do I put my trust.”

And a final one to share: this young man, who seemingly lost his life while serving in the Army during the Civil War, was buried by his parents with this epitaph:

“Here lies, with the hope of a joyful resurrection, the mortal remains of …”

Eternity with Christ, the resurrection of the body, and life in the new Kingdom is the blessed hope for every believer. That is a truth that will truly set one free.


The Work Ahead of Us

I love the natural beauty of this country.

My slice of the world, off the Chesapeake Bay, is a sanctuary of peace and serenity for me (and my dogs!).

Bush River, Maryland

There are so many beautiful natural wonders across this nation. Just visit a national park, one of our greatest treasures, and you’ll see!

Zion National Park, Utah

While we’ve been living through a very hard year, and having just commemorated Independence Day, I’ve been reflecting on America’s greatest treasure—our Constitution and the revolutionary foundation of the Declaration of Independence, that every person is created equal.

It is a profound tragedy that we have not always lived up to that founding ideal, most notably with slavery and the ensuing treatment of black Americans. Women have had to fight for the right to vote, as we marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment earlier this year. And the cause to which I have devoted many years, ending the dehumanization of the preborn child, and the mass slaughter by abortion that has snuffed out the lives of over 60 million American babies before they have even had a chance to take breath. These are only a few examples.

And yet, it’s important to see our current day through the eyes of both a historian, and a theologian. America, sins and all, has been the most revolutionary nation on earth. Prior to 1776, nation-states were comprised of subjects not citizens and most claimed a divine right to their sovereigns. And even today, in some of the most powerful nations, the freedom of individuals is sharply curtailed. This is obviously just a very broad brush stroke of history (a longer analysis HERE), as I attempt to simply point out that the ideal 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” is truly astounding, especially when you view it in its historical context.

As Americans living in the 21st century, we should absolutely continue to work towards securing those founding ideals of the right to life and liberty, and the guarantees of our Constitution, for every man, woman, and child. And as Christians we have an even higher calling to live obediently to God first and foremost, and to love our neighbors. I like how author and philosopher James K.A. Smith puts it in his book, How We Love: “Our engagement with God’s world is not about running the show or winning a culture war. We are called to be witnesses, not necessarily winners.”

From a theological perspective, until Christ returns, there will always be trials and tribulations in this world as a result of sin. There will always be discord among men and women, within and among nations. We can’t achieve utopia; we must be prudent and realistic. However, God does teach us about seeking “the welfare of the city,” about pursuing justice, mercy, and righteousness, about caring for the poor, orphans, and widows. One day, in the new Kingdom, all will be made right.

Until then, we have our work ahead of us. And I, for one, will continue to criss-cross America the beautiful to find restoration and strength for this journey from the natural and healing power of creation!

Multnomah Falls, Oregon