Jogging Our Collective Memory on July 4th: Christian Faith Has Been Bedrock of Our Nation


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On July 4, it will be 243 years since the United States  declared its independence from the British Empire and claimed its status as a nation. Our Founding Fathers established America with recognition of man’s religious nature and an expectation that Christian belief would animate the new country’s civic life.

Although that Christian ethos has not kept our nation from the scourges of slavery, nativism and civil war, thanks be to God, U.S. citizens — through much effort — overcame them. Today, we find ourselves facing different national challenges, but no less destructive: Millions of Americans have been enslaved by a welfare system that facilitates poverty, fatherlessness and crime and encourages abortion as “health care.” Immigrants are caught in the middle of extreme political polarization that has inhibited any clear end to the problems inherent in mass migration. The new “civil” war, though bloodless, has taken the form of the vitriol, hatred and character assassination on social media, where even the clearest of thinkers find themselves bearing the brunt of an angry mob.

But, as always, God provides his grace in any age: Thanks to technological advances and the proliferation of pro-life apostolates, secular and religious, the human dignity of a person from conception to natural death is the force behind so many organizations and apostolates. The majority of U.S. citizens now consider abortion morally wrong, and in some states this conviction has helped usher in bold new laws to protect unborn children and their mothers. There are voices in all levels of politics and the Church who are working for authentic immigration reform while protecting national sovereignty. Voices of reason, clarity and charity still rise above the shrill and serve as vehicles for constructive debate.

This Independence Day let our collective memory be jogged on the ways that Christian faith has been a bedrock of our nation and a force for change. The birthday of our country is an opportunity to take to heart again Thomas Jefferson’s words — adapted from St. Robert Bellarmine, who wrote 150 years earlier “All men are equal, not in wisdom or grace, but in the essence and nature of mankind” reflected in our own constitution as: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

At a time when religious practice has sunken low, let us also remember Bellarmine’s words, as we pray for our country: “Political power emanates from God. Government was introduced by divine law, but the divine law has given this power to no particular man. … Men must be governed by someone, lest they be willing to perish. It is impossible for men to live together without someone to care for the common good.”

God bless you!

Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Joseph Cordileone attends the mass and imposition of the Pallium upon the new metropolitan archbishops held by Pope Francis for the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Paul at Vatican Basilica on June 29, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.

A New Era?

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has a profound understanding of what the U.S. bishops have called the preeminent issue of our time, and his stand is courageous.