A New Birth of Freedom
It may appear mythical to younger readers (and some not so young), but there was a time, and not so long ago, when the Fourth of July was not a day of contention about seemingly irreconcilable notions of freedom. Virtually all Americans, of whatever political stripe, could come to this day with differences, sometimes deep ones, and yet celebrate the principled tolerance, the live-and-let-live mutual respect, that had made this country both prosperous and relatively peaceful – two things that anyone who looks around today with a clear eye will quickly see are not to be taken for granted.
Our current divisions, however, are not without precedents. And those very precedents should make us all the more vigorous in seeking better days, what we might even call a “new birth of freedom.” Christians in particular shouldn’t deceive themselves. We live in a fallen world. And it sometimes requires the greatest of sacrifices to retain even ordinary human goods.
Speaking at Gettysburg, where in the three days before July 4, 1863, 50,000 soldiers on the two sides were wounded, went missing, or died in the struggle to preserve the union and bring an end to slavery, Abraham Lincoln concluded, “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”