Many Americans sang America recently as we
celebrated Independence Day, more commonly known as "The Fourth of July." In
this popular patriotic hymn, we proclaim our country to be a "sweet land of
liberty" in which we hope to "let freedom ring."
Unfortunately, far too many of us have a limited
or, worse yet, mistaken understanding of the "freedom" about which we sing.
The final verse of America proclaims God to be the "Author of
liberty," and it is to Him that we sing. Freedom is not simply a political
autonomy that insulates us from foreign influence, but rather a divine gift
to humanity that allows us to live according to God’s precepts. The song
America is a prayer, fittingly ending with the invocation, "Protect us
by Thy might, Great God, our King." A good king not only protects his
subjects; he also provides laws that allow them to live with integrity in
peace and harmony with one another.
A lot of us watched impressive pyrotechnic
displays recently that solicited oohs and aahs from many a
delighted spectator. The heart-stopping blasts and screeching whistles
synchronized with colorful splashes of light left many of us in awe of the
magnificent sensation that such a spectacle could repeatedly produce within
us. Just as the "Wow!" factor of a fireworks display elicits from us an
excited response, so should the gift of freedom from sin and its
consequences bring forth animated gratitude to God for His mercy and
kindness: "Wow, God! You are so good to give us laws that
allow us the genuine freedom always to choose what is right and good for
ourselves and for others!"
Another popular hymn, America the Beautiful,
addresses its message directly to Americans themselves with the following
proposal: "America… confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law."
Yes, the freedom God gives requires a degree of self control. All too many
enlightened modernists summarily dismiss this virtue as irrelevant where
freedom is concerned. Au contraire! In fact, this verse emphasizes
that American liberty needs to be confirmed in law. In other words, for all
to enjoy true freedom, regulatory laws must guide human activity so
that we act in accord with God’s moral law that is inscribed not only in
nature, but also in Divine Revelation—that is, in Sacred Scripture and
All of this is to say that authentic
freedom—because it comes from God and leads us to God—must be defined in
God’s terms, not those of our secular culture. The freedom we truly cherish
both as Americans and as Christians is the freedom to do what is right even
when it is not what is popular or "politically correct." God is not only the
author of freedom; He is the author also of truth, about which
Jesus declared, "The truth will set you free" (Jn. 8:32). So, if we truly
want to enjoy freedom, we must first seek truth. Jesus declared Himself to
be the Truth. Hence, only if we seek and find Him will we be truly free.
When we Americans join together in this quest for
truth in Jesus Christ, then not only will God bless America; He also
will expressly "shed his grace on thee".
You may reach Fr. Eickhoff
and the Office for Evangelization
at 402-488-2040 or