As you prepare for Independence Day, think about the story-telling that needs to be told around the celebration table, the stories of God in our history, God in our country’s founding – and the courageous men and women who crossed over to places like Plymouth Plantation (come by for that history and who grew children who fought for a freedom the world had not seen before, a freedom born out of faith (if you doubt that, read Chapter 2 of Common Sense). The 4th of July is not only about setting off fireworks to celebrate freedom, but about telling the freedom stories.
“Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you”(Deuteronomy 32:7 NIV).
If you want to change someone’s life, tell a story.” In this quote, Billy Graham simply states a truth we all know: stories help us comprehend and internalize life lessons in ways that can change our hearts. Jesus knew he could reach people through stories. He used parables to teach his followers complex spiritual dynamics through simple illustrations. Stories play a vital role in many aspects of our culture: Aesop’s fables teach moral lessons; Fairy Tales exalt the virtues of good over evil; legends celebrate nobleness, self-sacrifice, and good deeds, but history tells the story of our past and our future.
“Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.” (Matthew 13:34 NIV)
The Story of a Nation
“For I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders” (Psalm 78: 2-5, NLT)
The stories of our country’s foundation teach us about the courageous men and women who were moved by God to create a country where religious freedom could reign in the hearts of its citizens. By following the Psalmist’s instructions, we can pass on our history to future generations and encourage them to secure our freedom. When someone asked Benjamin Franklin if we had a republic or a monarchy, he responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” When we tell the stories of our nation and its spiritual heritage, we can, indeed, keep the republic our ancestor’s designed.
“And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’ Then you will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the LORD brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery” (Exodus 13:14).
Dynamic main characters build good stories. The main characters in the story of our country were men who took risks, envisioned the impossible, and in the face of fear, accomplished their mission. In 1828, the definition of education included the belief that, “a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties” (http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/education). However, in 1828, parents never imagined freedom’s faith foundation would suffer omission or re-construction in its children’s history books. As story keepers of our history, we need to re-acquaint ourselves with the men who preached freedom from churches, the men who formed our Constitution, and the men who fought on the battlefield for the freedom endowed by our Creator.
“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” Thomas Jefferson
“I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”Benjamin Franklin, On the Price of Corn and Management of the Poor, November 1766
A story’s setting gives the readers both time and place. The setting provides the readers with essential information which allows them to better understand the characters and their motivations. In essence, the Declaration of Independence is the setting for our country’s story. If we read it one point at a time, not just as a communication to the King of England, but as a complaint written to the three branches of our government, this historical document becomes an empowering document. If we know the legal documentation of our history and freedom, then we can pass on the knowledge to our children, and they can keep the flame of freedom burning brightly. Let’s read the Declaration and re-discover the timelessness of it.
All good stories contain supporting characters. They help the reader to have a more vivid understanding of the main characters. The beliefs of our Founding Fathers and our historical documents are important, but they have more meaning when we understand where they came from. We can trace back the family tree of ideas in the letters, correspondence, and public record of the debates, sermons, speeches and conversations that led to the creation of the Declaration of Independence, the constitution and inspired the march to freedom. We can read each one separately or read them as a whole, but most importantly, we want to share the stories and talk about what they mean.
“God well knew what a world of degenerate, ambitious and revengeful creatures this is – as He knew that innocence could not be protected, property and liberty secured, nor the lives of mankind preserved from the lawless hands of ambition, avarice and tyranny without the use of the sword – as He knew this would be the only method to preserve mankind from universal slavery” (Rev. Samuel Davies, 1755).
“Let us then. . .remember with reverential gratitude to our Supreme Benefactor all the wonderful things He has done for us in our miraculous deliverance from a second Egypt—another ‘house of bondage’ and thou shalt show thy son on this day. (Elias Boudinot, July 4th, 1793, member of the Continental Congress)
Story telling is an educational tool as powerful as the sword. Jesus used parables to pierce his followers’ hearts and minds. God instructs us to tell our children the stories of him and his ways. Therefore, when we tell our children about God’s role in our nation’s foundation, we know we are building the future. Only by teaching our children to be our nation’s story keepers can we ensure our freedom and our faith will flourish.
“Tell your children about it in the years to come, and let your children tell their children. Pass the story down from generation to generation” (Joel 1:3, NLT)
Boudinot, Elias. “Oration.” Celebrate Liberty: Famous Patriotic Speeches and Sermons. Ed.
David Barton. Aledo Texas. 2003. 237. Print.
Davis, Samuel. “Oration”. Celebrate Liberty: Famous Patriotic Speeches and Sermons. Ed.
David Barton. Aledo Texas. 2003. 237. Print.
Ellis Sandoz, editor. Political Sermons of the American Founding Era. Vol 1 (1730-1788) and
Vol. 2 (1789-1805). The On-line Library of Liberty. 2011 (free-on-line historical sermons that shaped our constitution))
A Treasury of Primary Documents.
http://www.constitution.org/primarysources/primarysources.html (contains sermons that helped shape our Constitution)
Two Treatises of Government. John Locke. The Law’s of Nature and Nature’s God. 2003. 5 June
2011. http://www.lonang.com/exlibris/locke/ (this allows you to read Locke’s work free on-line; however, it is readily available at any bookstore or possibly even library.