I ended up with a $20 bill in my hand over the weekend—not for long, I assure you. But for a change, I was still enough long enough to really look at the bill. The way I was holding it the words “In God We Trust” loomed large. It was almost as if I had never seen them before. They fairly leaped off the bill.
I paused and pondered. “In God We Trust.” For a few moments I allowed myself to be transported to 1776. Did the founders of this great country really trust in God? Who did they look to for direction in a time of great adversity, a time of the heavy hand of government taking away their individual freedoms and their ability to self-determine? We don’t have to look much beyond the words of the Declaration of Independence for a reasonable answer.
Fifty-six different men signed this document. Men from all walks of life, representing the diversity of the various colonies. They knew what they were doing. The Declaration of Independence represented the sentiments of all of those who took the quill, dipped it in the ink well and with their signature pledged to one another, their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
While written relatively quickly, the Declaration of Independence was not hastily or casually considered. Records show that some 86 changes were made including the insertion of three complete paragraphs, before the final vote on the document on July 4th. The deliberations and the number of and types of changes tell me that they were extremely careful about the wording.
In the opening paragraph of this incredible document, the signers make a bold statement regarding the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” with the word God capitalized. For those men, there was no doubt as to which god they were referring. This was God Almighty, the Creator God.
The second paragraph has that phenomenal declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Again, there was universal agreement among the signers that the Creator was the same as “Nature’s God.”
In the concluding paragraph, the colonists through their elected representatives to Congress, boldly declare their decision: “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown…”
Strong words. Frightening words. But I note that their trust was not in themselves, individually or collectively. Rather their trust and their appeal was to the “Supreme Judge of the world” to God Almighty. In those days, no one asked, “Who were they talking about using that phrase?” Everyone knew. It was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
For those 56 men who risked everything signing this document, “In God We Trust” was not a nice-sounding national motto showing up on paper currency. It was a rock solid belief. It was direction in the midst of oppressive circumstances. It was the light of hope in the midst of the darkness of tyranny.
How the times have changed. One of the most profound, world-changing documents ever penned referred 3 specific times to God. Today, some 238 years later, we seriously entertain abolishing the motto, removing it from coins, taking out “one nation under God” from the pledge and completely eliminating God from our culture and government.
I assert that such actions would be absolutely unthinkable to those who risked everything so that you and I could, as their posterity, live even today in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” So what does “In God We Trust” mean to you as you prepare to celebrate July 4th with friends and family? Is it just a nice motto or is it a bedrock belief lived out every day?
I am, technically speaking, a daughter of the South—born and reared for the first twelve years of my life in Atlanta, Georgia. Amongst other things, including a Southern drawl that rivaled the best of them, I grew up with a true Southern take on the Civil War or the War Between the States. I was told repeatedly to save my Confederate money because the South would rise again.
To me, Sherman’s March to the Sea via Atlanta, wasn’t just a story. It was very real to me as I considered that he had burned my home city en route. I had visited numerous local historical spots made famous by the battle that essentially leveled this beautiful city. In addition, I was a somewhat frequent visitor at the Civil War Cyclorama in downtown Atlanta. Because it was on the top of my father’s “must-do” list for any visitor, I was able to go numerous times. Dad was smitten with it, in spite of the fact he was a transplanted Yankee from Michigan.
The Cyclorama, for those of you unfortunate Northerners who haven’t yet had the privilege of seeing it, is a huge circular oil painting and a diorama that so perfectly blends in with the painting that you can’t tell where the three-dimensional representation stops and the one dimensional starts. It graphically and vividly depicts the Battle of Atlanta on July 26, 1864. Music and sound and visual effects accompany the telling of the story as visitors are absolutely drawn into the scene as they sit on a rotating platform during the presentation.
Even now, many years later, I can still recall the smoke filling the room after we’d heard cannons firing. I can see the flashes of light and the flames being highlighted. But what I most vividly see is the bodies—the bodies of soldiers, both Confederate and Union, lying bloody, either dead or dying. Maybe it was at the Cyclorama that I first realized that war requires sacrifice—especially the sacrifice of human life. Now I know that those soldiers were someone’s son, father, husband, grandfather, uncle, brother, nephew, friend…and they had given everything they had and were in cause they believed in, regardless of whether they were wearing grey or blue uniforms.
Years after my last time visiting the Cyclorama, I watched a World War II movie that reminded me again of that very real and very sobering truth. In a stunning way, I realized anew that the fact that my father survived his 2 years on the front lines in the European theater was nothing short of God’s grace. Nearly 300,000 of those who served with Dad in World War II died as a result of injuries on the battle field.
War isn’t pretty—ever. It’s bloody and often very costly—especially in terms of human life. No war we’ve ever been involved with has been without American casualties. According to the government’s statistics, well over 650,000 armed services personnel have died as a result of battlefield injuries. These are the men and women who gave the last full measure of devotion.
Honoring these fallen heroes on Memorial Day, this Monday, May 26, is altogether fitting. Whether they were coerced, cajoled, drafted or volunteered, the bottom line is each of these men and women was on some battle field defending our freedom, our form of government, our national interests, when their lives ended.
This Memorial Day, while some of us may go to a ceremony or put some flowers on the grave of a veteran, other Wisconsin families will be observing it quite differently. For more than 127 Wisconsin families this coming Memorial Day will be different. They will be without their son or daughter who died in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Whether this is the twelfth such Memorial Day or the third such Memorial Day, it is certain that for these Wisconsin families Memorial Day will never be the same.
How fortunate I’ve been. I’ve never lost a loved one in battle, and I’ve never seen a battle first-hand. Like many of you, my experience regarding war has been from the safety and distance of such things as the Cyclorama, movies, books and news clips, which, while often very realistic and sometimes even real, still aren’t the real thing. This Memorial Day may we each recall that for some Americans war has been horribly real—the last real thing they ever knew. May we thank God for those who on some battlefield have sacrificed their all for us. May we pray, too, for the safety for those still standing in harm’s way on our behalf—those still willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
After witnessing an offensive sign on display in the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda a few weeks ago, Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) decided to send out a press release countering the message. The release’s headline was “Thank God, the Atheists Have a Voice.” The sign was put up by the Madison-based organization Freedom From Religion Foundation in response to a Christian Easter display a few weeks ago. Kleefisch remarks, “I guess if I were responsible for the FFRF marketing message, I’d find some actual proof God doesn’t exist to counter the multitudes of proof He does.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is in the process of enlarging their offices on W. Washington Street in Madison (photo, left) and we can expect to see more activity as they go from an old apartment complex to a four-story building near our state capitol. Construction is being done by NCI-Roberts, general contractor who, ironically, is also in the midst of putting an addition on Door Creek Church in Madison. The FFRF building is named the “Free Thought Building,” but NCI wrongly and quite badly refers to it as “The Freedom Building.”
MADISON—Each year for the past 18 years, Wisconsin Family Council (WFC), the educational arm of Wisconsin Family Action (WFA), has displayed a Merry Christmas sign in the State Capitol Rotunda. The sign not only wishes everyone a Merry Christmas, but reminds viewers of the real reason for the season—Jesus Christ—in direct contrast to the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s FFRF) sign recognizing the Winter Solstice and declaring that God does not exist.
Today, Wisconsin Family Council once again put up the sign in the capitol while Wisconsin Family Action placed an accompanying nativity display.
“Celebrating Christ’s birth is a Christian celebration, an American holiday and a Wisconsin tradition,” said Julaine Appling, president of WFA and WFC. “The Germans who played such an important role in settling our state brought this great tradition with them.”
The First Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits government from interfering with religion and guarantees citizens the right to exercise their religion, including celebrating Christmas, both in the privacy of their homes and in the public square.
Appling continued, “Thousands of visitors come to our beautiful state capitol during the holiday season to enjoy the gorgeous Christmas tree with all the handmade ornaments. We are honored to have our display in the rotunda as a silent but powerful witness to the truth of Christmas and to offer hope to all those who see it.”
The sign and the nativity will be on display on the First Floor Rotunda from today through December 31, 2013.
Merry Christmas to one and all!
I want to take this opportunity, first, to wish you and your family a very blessed Thanksgiving. I also want to, as the Scriptures say, put you in remembrance, of what this uniquely American holiday is all about. I urge you to share the story with your family; don’t assume they are learning it somewhere else or that they are somehow absorbing it by osmosis. It’s each generation’s responsibility to consciously, purposefully pass on this incredible true story of the history of our nation and God’s blessing. So please even if you think you know all the details of what I’m going to say next, listen closely with the intention of telling others the truth about America’s Thanksgiving celebration. I believe it is especially important today; we are losing so much of who we have been as a people and religious freedom is under threat like never before. We have much to gain from rehearsing this great story.
Almost four centuries ago, in 1621, the Pilgrims set aside 3 days of feasting and celebration to thank the Lord for His provision and protection throughout the previous year and for a bountiful harvest. At that celebration, from which we derive our present-day Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims gave thanks despite the hardship and deprivation they experienced during their first year in the New World.
Most of the Pilgrims buried one or more loved ones during the previous harsh New England winter. They lived in conditions that, by today’s standards, were barbaric to put it nicely and probably not even comparable to living conditions in Developing Countries. The New World was inhospitable, dangerous, unfamiliar and for many, fatal.
That first year in the New World was absolutely devastating, until Squanto befriended the Pilgrims and taught them how to survive, how to cultivate the land and grow their own food. Governor William Bradford said Squanto was “a special instrument sent of God for [our] good…and never left [us] till he died.”
The Pilgrim’s relationship with the Wampanoag Tribe is a legacy of integrity and friendship. It was a friendship that lasted throughout the lifetime of the original inhabitants of Plymouth and significantly contributed to the survival of the Pilgrims. In fact, about ninety Indians joined the Pilgrims for that first Thanksgiving.
I cannot look back on the story of the Pilgrims and their Thanksgiving feast without being struck by the apparent incongruity of the conditions those brave pioneers lived under and their attitude toward those conditions. My gas and electric bill goes up and I think I have it hard.
What could possibly move people to such dire straits that they sail to an unknown land and brave terrifying conditions to scratch a meager existence out of foreign soil? Religious persecution that makes them seek a place where there is true religious freedom. Most of the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower were religious refugees, hunted by the British government because of their opposition to the Church of England.
They were Puritans; part of the movement to purify the Church of England from rituals and practices which the Puritans believed were unbiblical. Because of their desire to purify the church, they were political and social outcasts—the original pioneers of religious freedom.
The Mayflower Compact, signed by Pilgrim leaders, beautifully illustrates the motivation behind the Plymouth Colony.
Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together and a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and perseveration and furtherance of the end aforesaid.”
There it is in black and white: for the glory of God, the advancement of the Christian faith and the honor of king and country. Look at the priority here: God’s glory, Christianity and country. Isn’t it interesting how the natural means of achieving these three purposes is a civil body politic? Amazing!
I could not have said it better. As Christians we do not and cannot exist in a vacuum. The means through which we worship God, pursue a Christian life and live in peace with our fellow man is through the administration of a God-ordained institution—government.
This was their purpose, to practice their faith freely, raise their children in the ways of the Lord and live in peace. They believed in this goal so fiercely that after that first terrible, fatal winter, when a ship came and offered passage back to England, not a single, surviving Pilgrim abandoned the New World for the old one. Not a single one!
What courage! What faith! What perseverance! Despite the setbacks, despite the hardship, despite the danger, despite the discomfort, they would not be deterred from their purpose—to establish a government where they could live, worship God and raise their families freely.
Do you and I have that courage today? Do we possess the faith and perseverance to carry on in our purpose despite the opposition, for the sake of our children? It’s a sobering question—one that I am faced with daily.
Look at the results in our lives today. Almost four centuries of freedom, struggle, prosperity, pioneering, hardship and courage, through the grace of God, have given us the liberties we enjoy today: the freedom to worship God freely, to speak our minds, to vote for our leaders, to provide for ourselves and our families.
When I look at those freedoms today, I can honestly say it was worth it. Every ounce of sweat and blood was worth the America we enjoy today. I am grateful for God’s providence, for his protection for this City on a Hill. And I am ready, with you, to defend and advance those freedoms in my lifetime, so that the next generation can enjoy the liberty our ancestors handed down to us.
 http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=17984, accessed 11/25/08.
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayflower_Compact#Text_of_the_Mayflower_Compact, accessed 11/25/08.
Wisconsin-based home improvement center remains closed on Thanksgiving
In an open letter to John Menard, Jr, CEO of Menard, Inc., Wisconsin Family Council president Julaine Appling commends Mr. Menard and his corporation, in particular the Menards stores, for bucking the recent trend of keeping retail stores open on Thanksgiving and other major holidays. Following is a statement from Julaine regarding the letter.
“I’ve been dismayed by how many retailers are treating our major holidays like any other buy-and-sell day. I don’t shop a lot, but when I walk into major stores and see signs boasting of being open all day Thanksgiving, I am not impressed—and I suspect I’m not the only one who feels that way.
“As Wisconsin’s premier pro-family organization, we believe it’s important that we publicly acknowledge and thank Mr. Menard for his decision to put families ahead of profit that might be made this Thursday. It’s a truly commendable action given the direction we are headed in this country. Perhaps Mr. Menard’s decision will embolden others to follow his lead.
“Late last week I was in one of those stores that is boasting about being open all day Thanksgiving. A friend of mine who works in the store was on duty (she’s scheduled to work the holiday). When I expressed to her my disappointment about this decision, she said, ‘You know, the founder of this company would never have done this. I don’t understand why his heirs and current management think this is good. Is it just greed?’
I couldn’t answer that question, but I certainly understood what she was saying. Much of corporate America, historically, was founded by people with strong family values and a deep respect for the traditions of this great country. Today, it seems much of that is lost and everything is about increasing the corporate bottom line. I don’t think that’s a good trend for our state and nation.
“I am hopeful that many people will not shop on Thanksgiving. Instead, I trust families and friends will gather and spend the day together enjoying each other and truly giving thanks to God for His incredible blessings on this land. And I also hope that Menards in particular here in Wisconsin enjoys one of the best ‘Black Fridays’ in its history!”
The Open Letter to John Menard, Jr. is available online HERE.