Independence Day and History’s Heavenly Exclamation Point for ‘Making America Great Again’
I believe in a genuinely omnipotent, Sovereign God — an almighty, divine Being who troubles Himself with the details, plunging shoulder-deep into human concerns. He’s not the AWOL watchmaker-Deity, the absentee landlord-Creator allegedly favored by “Deism” of yore — although as certain statements from renowned “Deists” like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin persuasively demonstrate, some of them regarded that Heavenly Overseer quite a bit less “absentee” than others. “Poor Richard”, for instance, at 1787’s Constitutional Convention, avowed, “[T]he longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”
Well, howdy! Not exactly the uninvolved Watchmaker one might expect from the famously bon vivant Mr. Franklin. And neither is it the kind of Divinity recommended by the “therapeutic Deism” peddled by so many moderns; those wanting to tip their religious caps at some notion of “god” without personally staking too much on their profession.
I’m convinced, then, my intimately implicated God regularly arranges meaningful coincidences and circumstantial quirks intended to get our attention, to prompt us to further respond to Him. I’m not certain every interest-grabbing confluence of events is freighted with prophetic significance; I am confident, however, many are; at least for “those with eyes to see and ears to hear.”
I don’t sweat the controversial “scandal of particularity” — “the resistance many people have to the idea that God …would enter human history in a very localized way … choosing the Hebrews [or] … in Christianity, becoming incarnate in one man only and making him the gateway to salvation”. The Lord of Creation I read about in Jewish and Christian Scriptures has the minutiae of nations and of individual men’s lives very much on his mind (Proverbs 5:21); profoundly wants to be involved in their decisions and choices (Psalm 37:23), invites each of them to enjoy a very personal, even granular, relationship with Him (1 Peter 5:7). The proposition that a loving Creator would manage and massage situational ebbs and flows to reveal His ways to me? And to mankind? I’m utterly cool with that.
Take, for instance, an astonishing Independence Day coincidence — one I was reminded of during this year’s just-past celebration. Amidst the fireworks and barbecues, of course, denizens of the United States are encouraged to commemorate their Declaration of Independence. I’ve long marveled, though, at the goose-bump-raising but meagerly heralded factoid that two or our most prominent, revolutionary-era luminaries breathed their last on July 4; and not just any July 4, but 1826’s fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of America’s founding document.
Indeed, elderly John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, friends once more after years of rancorous estrangement, left this mortal coil on the calendar day they helped make celebration-worthy by their mutual roles in the Declaration’s passage; noble and signal roles on which the entire process hinged.
Jefferson, of course, was the primary architect of our Republic’s birthing charter. It is his magisterial text which comprises its content.
Meanwhile, according to Jefferson himself, “Adams was the pillar of [the Declaration’s] support on the floor of Congress, its ablest advocate and defender”. New Jersey Delegate Richard Stockton singled out the future second-president as “the atlas” of the endeavor, “the man to whom the country is most indebted for the great measure of independency”.
The Scholar from Monticello and the Lawyer from Quincy, MA, both indispensable figures in laying the groundwork for what their budding nation would become, passed away on this, perhaps their weightiest accomplishment’s golden jubilee.
Was the term “Wow!” in vogue in nineteenth-century America’s early years?
But hold on, historophiles: the Independence Day curiosities don’t stop there. Shuffling our focus from one end of life’s spectrum to the other, another tidbit of July 4th trivia recently informed me that Calvin Coolidge — among America’s great Chief Executives, arguably, the greatest of the twentieth century — began his earthly sojourn that same day, 1872. I’d reckon his birth date a haunting harbinger of the quality of the man, especially considering our thirtieth president’s taciturn passion for his nation’s founding principles.
“Silent Cal” ‘s limited-government convictions stretched well beyond rhetoric, too – he put them aggressively into action during his one-and-one-half White House terms. (As vice-president to Warren G. Harding, Coolidge assumed the top office upon the latter’s untimely death (1923), then went on to win it outright in 1924’s election.)
British historian Paul Johnson assesses the Plymouth, Vermont native: “No public man carried into modern times more comprehensively the founding principles of Americanism: hard work, frugality, freedom of conscience, freedom from government, respect for serious culture.”
Unabashedly pro-business and “[a] supply sider before his time”, according to Cal Thomas, Coolidge energetically slashed both tax rates (the Revenue Act of 1926) and federal spending.
Then there’s this side of the former Massachusetts Governor: “The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.”
From a 1921 address:
We do not need more intellectual power, we need more moral power. We do not need more knowledge, we need more character. We do not need more government, we need more culture. We do not need more law, we need more religion. We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen. If the foundation be firm, the foundation will stand.
Oh, my …
The fruit of Calvin Coolidge’s doggedly Declaration-revering, constitutionalist efforts?
The national debt was cut almost in half. Unemployment stood at 3.6 percent. Consumer prices rose at just 0.4 percent. During his term, there was a remarkable 17.5 percent increase in the nation’s wealth. Total education spending in the United States rose fourfold. In the 1920s, illiteracy fell nearly in half. This was a golden age, by any standard.
We’re presently hearing lots of bravado about “making America great again” but I contend these startling Independence Day concurrences ought to give pause. Are they plausibly God’s exclamation point, His underscoring emphasis that “greatness” is hardly something we can assume for this nation’s future? That, in fact, it won’t happen until American culture, society and polity recur to and once again conscientiously abide by the fundamental and indispensable virtues propounded by two giants who died on July 4, 1826 and another born that same day forty-six years later?
Among other timeless truths, July 4 ought to punch home those cautions. Seems to me, the Creator has done His part to make them obvious.
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