As a Christian, I am an enhanced patriot. I enjoyed the 4th of July fireworks even though concerned about injuries and accidental fires. Yet the meaning of July 4th resonates. In college I majored in history-political science, learning the courage and reason it took for the Founders to break with Great Britain and say “Enough!” England was the colonial power of the known world, and here we were, a scraggly, mostly uneducated group of colonials trying to forge-out a living on a wilderness continent.
The language of the Declaration of Independence was revolutionary! “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 them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This document and the list of grievances unleashed a break from fealty. Freedom was the word! Freedom was the goal! Freedom to forge our own destiny and write our own laws. Through blood and sacrifice we cut the cord. Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country, but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of men and women.”
Commence the revolution! Victory! Victory for what? Unbridled violence? Lawless violence? Guns anytime and everywhere? Created for the free-willy use of guns? Equality only for the gunner? Rights only for the gunner? Life only for the gunner? Liberty only for the gunner? Happiness only for the gunner? Freedom only for the gunner?
The purpose of the Declaration of Independence was to begin forging a nation where ALL people could enjoy Life, Liberty and Happiness, to forge a nation where we would care for each other, lift-up each other, and live together in harmony. The D of I was not a license to kill each other, but a trumpet to gather us and demand correction for grievances. We were tired of oppression! Tired of living under fear. Tired of being controlled. Tired of being second class. Tired of being denied a full Life. Tired of feeling chained. Tired of a foggy happiness.
We demanded redress for grievances. To name a few, criticizing English Royalty for its refusal to assent to laws for the public good, refusal to pass other laws of immediate importance, refusal to assent to laws for establishing judicial power and refusal to pass laws to accommodate large numbers of people. The colonials demanded just laws for the sake of unity, safety and representation. Laws mattered to order a country, not to license each other to kill each other.
The D of I was and is a document for Life, Liberty and Happiness. Fair gun laws are consistent with the Founders’ vision. Grievances were addressed in 1776. Grievances exist today. I grieve that about 40,000 people die of gun violence nationally each year. I grieve that 465 Minnesotans died of gun violence in 2017. I grieve that 79% of Minnesota gun deaths are suicides, and nearly 60% are suicides nationally. I grieve the USA is overwhelmingly #1 among Western Developed Nations in the rate of gun violence. Ought not our grievances lead to life protecting laws? Can we not declare our independence from gun violence? Can we not make those words of 1776 ring for today? Ought we not shoot-off fireworks for gun safety? We need a revolution of gun independence! We need to say with the colonials “Enough!”, refusing to be gun careless and instead embracing Life, Liberty and Happiness for all by INSISTING on laws to prevent gun violence, laws such as universal background checks and Red Flag (Extreme Risk Protective Orders) Laws.
I am an enhanced patriot because the D of I doesn’t stand alone as only a product of itself. It has deep roots. The D of I is an extension of the Reformation and Enlightenment which began breaking the hold of Kingly domination and unleashing the clamor for individual rights, sparking the flame of equality. Christian influence was significant in breaking this dam of oppression. Thomas Jefferson was a theist who took the time to “edit” the Bible while finding it foundational to his reasoning. Most of the D of I signers had church connections. The great preacher Jonathan Edwards was influential to the American ethos. The moral center of the colonial power-brokers was majorly Jesus influenced. Why not us? Why not now? We are not exempt from Christ! I am not willing to blindly ignite fireworks in an orgy for the status quo. My patriotism is enhanced because Christ and life demand better of us. Let us let enhancement deepen our commitment to faith and life.
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)