Reflections on Independence Day

Reflections on Independence Day

By Judie Brown

Americans are taking time this week to reflect on the real meaning of the phrase Independence Day. We cherish the thought of being citizens in a free nation under God, and we understand the price so many of our fellow Americans—most especially our military and our Founding Fathers—paid to ensure this freedom.

Independence Day marks the date the United States became independent from the menace of political tyranny from abroad. It is the day we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, whose profound words acknowledge the laws of nature and of God as being the foundation for a just nation’s survival if that nation is to be truly independent from the evils of oppression.

Our Founding Fathers were wise to declare in that document: “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.”

But independence from tyranny must never include the right to kill innocent persons because of their age, health, or condition of dependency. In a nation that kills the preborn and the elderly and that advocates for others to commit suicide, the true definition of independence has been lost.

Such actions, when sanctioned or ignored by the government and practiced by that government’s people, are a sure sign that independence has been surrendered to the tyranny of evil. This comes about when man decides that God and His laws are irrelevant.

St. John Paul II described this sort of tyranny as a type of individualism that leads to a denial of the very idea of human nature. This happens because the true meaning of following one’s conscience has been superseded by what John Henry Newman called the “counterfeit conscience”—the rule of self-will. In other words, man decides what is right and wrong depending on what he wants to do or accept. When that happens, freedom and truth become casualties, and independence is forfeited to the gods of ego and self-absorption.

This is the sad reality in America today as we celebrate the birthday of our nation. By our own choices and behaviors, we have become that which we once fought so hard to oppose and drive out. We have created our own tyranny—much more bloody and deadly, much more hateful and cruel—than anything man could have imagined.

It is time for Americans to think long and hard about where this nation is headed. Prior to becoming the Vicar of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI taught that truth and justice can become like a yoke on the shoulders of a man—a yoke that man would prefer to shed. But once accomplished, this rejection of God and His laws leaves the man empty. Pope Benedict stated: “It leads into the desolate land of nothingness and disintegrates of itself. Yet the yoke of truth in fact became ‘easy’ (Mt 11:30) when the truth came, loved us, and consumed our guilt in the fire of his love. Only when we know and experience this from within, will we be free to hear the message of conscience with joy and without fear.”

Indeed, it is only in accepting Christ and His unconditional love that each individual person and the nation as a whole can find healing from the tyranny of self-will.

On this birthday of our nation, let us pray for the national will to follow Christ and leave behind the tyranny of death and destruction that is devouring our national soul. It is only then that Independence Day will regain its true meaning. And only then can we celebrate being one nation of people who are praising the Creator who endowed us individually with unalienable rights—including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


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