On July 4, 1776, the men, and their families supporting them published the sacred document, the Declaration of Independence, that created this country. At its conclusion, they said:
FOR THE SUPPORT OF THIS DECLARATION WITH A FIRM RELIANCE ON THE PROTECTION OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE WE MUTUALLY PLEDGE OUR LIVES, OUR FORTUNES AND OUR SACRED HONOR.
Imagine the risks they undertook and the courage that they needed to bring the ideal of freedom and equality that existed in their minds and hearts into external reality. They had to be willing to sacrifice everything dear to them — their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Their signatures, bound to their lives, fortunes and honor, created the United States of America. We need to return again and again to that moment. We need to re-birth America in our hearts in this time and place.
We honor the sacrifices of the women and men and their families who have served in Iraq and now in Afghanistan in service of our country. Many of these men and women have been compelled to serve tour after tour, sacrificing their physical and emotional lives and those of their families. But the rest of us American people have been asked to sacrifice very little.
Where is the courage and the leadership in our President and in our Congress?
I received an email last year from a friend that showed what happened to many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence:
Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. What kind of men were they?
Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.
Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge, and Middleton.
At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife; she died shortly after.
John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.
We go on with our complacent lives, untouched by the reality of war for our Marines or the children of war.
May we not take for granted what we have here in America. May this Fourth of July be a time for us to take stock of ourselves.
John Kennedy said: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Each of us must be willing to enter a path of personal transformation for the sake of transformation of our country. I invite you to pray every day for God’s help in that transformation.
Good and gracious God of our understanding,
we thank You for the courage and vision of our founding fathers and mothers.
May each of us be willing to transform
our hate to respect for all people,
our reliance on material things to reliance on You,
our greed and selfishness to self-giving and compassion
May we always be willing to respond to the grace You give us
to transform our lives and our country to serve the good of all.
Let the lessons of hardship that many of us now are experiencing
bring us to You, God of our understanding,
for You, are the Source of all that is good in our lives.
May all our actions show Your wisdom and love.