During the next several days, how much serious thought and attention will be given to the meaning and significance of the Fourth of July holiday? For most people, the Fourth means fireworks, picnics and perhaps lucking out when the holiday falls on a day that allows some employees to get one or two more days of vacation.
Public schools are not in session, so there is no opportunity for teachers -- those who are properly motivated and interested -- to visit with their students about the significance of the Fourth, events that led up to the Declaration of Independence and the subsequent Constitution and Bill of Rights.
What transpired, starting with the small band of religious dissenters known as the Pilgrims who sailed to the New World in 1620, has changed the history of the world, and yet it is doubtful many Americans will give serious thought to what has happened from the 1620s to July 4, 1776, when the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, adopted the Declaration of Independence.
Some mighty powerful beliefs were expressed by our forbearers in the Mayflower Compact, by Patrick Henry in his speech to the Virginia Convention, in Thomas Paine's "Common Sense," the Declaration of Independence and in the 10 original constitutional amendments known as the Bill of Rights.
The focus of all these historic and important documents or speeches was on the rights of individuals, the rights of individuals to be free from oppressive governments, the importance of liberty and the delegation of powers and responsibilities of various branches of our government as we know it today -- all with the awareness of the supreme role and rule of God.
Times change, but should the beliefs and the convictions of those who helped form the foundation of this country and its government be changed from year to year? Should, for example, the Supreme Court change the laws of this country based on the justices' own interpretation of the Constitution along with the influence of today's society? Or should the justices make their rulings based on the Constitution itself? This, of course, is what did in Judge Robert Bork and his nomination to become a member of the Supreme Court.
He believed in the Constitution, not a back-and-forth interpretation of what the Constitution should say based on today's society. He did not believe the court should be making new law. Rather, he thought the justices should measure their decisions against the Constitution.
One has to wonder what those who came to this country, with their strong faith in God, would think about the state of affairs in this country today. The freedoms they fought and died for seem far, far stronger and more significant than the concerns of many today who demand their rights to do this or that.
Several hundred years ago, there was no question but that government should not inhibit or control an individual's life. Today, there is hardly anything anyone can do without the approval or authority of some governmental power. Taxes are imposed at every level of economic activity, and until the 1994 congressional elections, it seems government, particularly at the federal level, was destined to grow larger and larger, more in control of everyone's lives and activities.
Our education, our employment, our recreation or sports, our travel, the food we eat, our housing, to a great extent our medical treatment -- almost everything -- is controlled by governmental powers, federal, state or local.
So far, about the only area in which the federal government has been unable to take control is outlined in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to the Government for a redress of grievances."
This was the First Amendment, and although some will attach little or no significance to it being "Amendment I," those who drafted the amendments must have thought it held particular importance.
There is nothing wrong, in fact it is great, to have fun over the Fourth of July holiday. It is hoped the weatherman will provide ideal weather for picnics, viewing fireworks displays or getting in some outdoor athletic activity.
But sometime during the weekend and next Tuesday, it would be good to have someone in a family or among a group of friends call attention to the serious importance of the Fourth, why this country has designated this specific date as a federal holiday and to remember freedom. Freedom from excessive government control is not a guaranteed, automatic situation.
Complacency by the public can lead to a gradual erosion of so many freedoms we take for granted. The Fourth of July should be a day that prompts citizens to realize the importance of our freedoms, even though they pale when compared to what appears to have been the freedoms enjoyed by past generations of Americans, and to remember the price so many have paid to preserve these freedoms for future generations.