The U.S. Supreme Court decision to give a small Christian pre-school in Missouri the same rights to state benefits as other schools was a major turning point and victory for people of faith. The court for years has been way off base in punishing anything connected with faith in God. The framers of the Constitution were simply trying to prevent any state from establishing a state church. There were efforts under way to do exactly that when Patrick Henry championed the Bill of Rights. Many colonists had fled religious persecution from state churches in Europe. Thus, our Constitution establishes a separation of church and state. Not to separated churches and people of faith from the same rights as others, but to separate the state from meddling in or constituting churches.
This was a major victory in Missouri. It bodes well for the direction of our new court. Non-believers, atheists, etc., need not fear. No one is trying to establish a state church nor force people to believe or practice religion. We simply rejoice that people of faith do not need to be discriminated against by the U.S. government. That was never the intent of the Constitution. In fact, such discrimination is actually a violation of the Bill of Rights. And that is essentially what the U.S. Supreme Court just decided in the Missouri case.
On a missions trip to the Philippine Islands years ago I stayed in a large downtown hotel in the capital city of Manila. I was headed toward Iloilo City where I preached to large crowds for missionary Rick Martin. I was actually in Manila over night on the 4th of July, and the name of the hotel restaurant there was called “The 4th of July.” The restaurant theme was about America. It made me feel very much at home coinciding with our Independence Day. Besides a strong American missionary presence in the Philippine Islands, the Philippines have also always been strong political allies of the USA. When my son, Dan, served on a missions trip in the Philippines, everywhere he went they called him “Joe,” a take-off from G.I. Joe of World War II days.
I knew a newspaper publisher years ago who said that America is great because America is free. The French philosopher de Tocqueville went a step further. He said America is great because America is good. And he said the key to America’s greatness is found in its churches.
I am a prolific reader of history. My favorite early American patriot is Patrick Henry. Four times elected governor of Virginia, he is regarded as perhaps the greatest orator in American political history. When Patrick Henry would rise to speak in the Virginia legislature, the hallways and offices would empty as people crowded in to hear him. He most likely could have been elected President of the U.S., but he chose not to run. After his wife died he remarried and had a 2nd family — nearly 15 children altogether. As he aged, he still had young children. He felt a tremendous responsibility to stay home and raise the children. He was a devout Christian.
Patrick Henry is most famous for his words, “Give me liberty or give me death!” But Patrick Henry also said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians — not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!” When the state of Virginia arrested Jeremiah Moore, a Baptist preacher, for preaching without state approval, Patrick Henry defended him in court and won their release. “Great God, gentlemen!” he cried out, “a man in prison for preaching the gospel of the Son of God!”
Let’s celebrate America this 4th of July!
This coming weekend we celebrate Memorial Day, a holiday which should be very special to all Americans. While instituting the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of Me.” Communion is a memorial. We remember Christ and what He did for us on the cross of Calvary. Memorial Day we remember those who served our country — protecting our freedom and faith, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives.
My wife and I remember the uncle she never knew, Uncle Donald, brother of my late father-in-law, Harold M. Jones. As a young man Donald was shot down over Germany in World War II and gave his life for us. My father and father-in-law both served in World War II, as did my uncle Roger.
I also remember my maternal grandfather, Carl F. Aten. He died at age 60 when I was just 6 years old. Grandpa Aten served in the famous “Rainbow Division” under then one-star Gen. Douglas MacArthur in World War I. The Rainbow Division was the U.S. force which went the furthest into Germany in World War I. My grandfather hated the fact he had to kill an enemy soldier. My mother told me that to some extent my grandfather never got over it. But his faith was strong. He led the Easter sunrise service at his church in Lorain, Ohio, until the day he died.