I had the pleasure recently of leading another group of people on a Spiritual Heritage Tour of Washington, D.C., and Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington.
I never tire of seeing our nation’s capital and hearing the stories of our Founding Fathers and the history of our country. I believe that America what was created by a divine appointment in time. Up until the United States was birthed all the world had really known were kings, monarchs and dictators. Democracy had existed in various forms down through history, the ancient Greeks for example, but nothing exactly like what the Founders created here had existed before. That is a constitutional republic with representative government, which is different than a pure democracy. Here we elect people to represent us, we do not vote on every issue. And a majority does not “rule.” The national constitution, and the state constitutions, the rule of law if you will, are all that is supposed to “rule.”
It does not always work that way because we are talking about flawed and sinful human beings implementing this system of government, but that is the way things are supposed to work. As my dad used to say, the form of government we have in America is not perfect, but it serves the best for the most. And that is why we have been the envy of the world and for centuries people have risked their lives trying to make it to our shores. They longed for freedom and liberty. In the words of Neil Diamond: They’re Coming to America.
One of the most famous Founding Fathers was Thomas Jefferson, who authored the Declaration of Independence and served as our third president. The story of our break from the English monarchy, which Jefferson helped to lead, is a phenomenal story, and I will write about that in another column. Also, the story of slavery in America in a column for another day. Slavery has been around since the dawn of time.
Visit the Jefferson Memorial today and you will see four inscriptions in the rotunda taken from his writings. It is clear that he was a strong believer in God. Historian Stephen McDowell of the Providence Foundation, who has studied Jefferson for three decades and lives in Charlottesville, home of Jefferson’s Monticello, said that while Jefferson spent his life attending Christian churches, he did question the deity of Jesus Christ in some letters he wrote late in his life. But it is clear by reading the writings of Jefferson he believed “Almighty God” was the author of the basic principles on which this new country was being built upon. One of his quotes inside the Jefferson Memorial dealing with religious freedom says this: “Almighty God hath created the mind free. All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens … are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion … No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion. I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively.”
The man had a way with words.
Jefferson was but one of many men who came together at that time to help birth our country. There were many more.
It was convergence of intellect, wisdom, righteousness, courage and conviction with few comparisons in history. As I said, it was divine appointment in time.
Community columnist Tim Wildmon is a Lee County resident. He is president of the American Family Association, but the column represents his personal opinion unless otherwise noted. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.