Today and Tuesday, at the ball field, or at a party or fireworks celebration, a concert or pops performance, or while watching one of these on TV this evening, as we all celebrate the 241st birthday of America, we’re likely to sing a song that was written by Irving Berlin in 1918, God Bless America. Perhaps it will lead you to ask the question, “Why has God so blessed America?
A scholar from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told a group of Westerners in 2002 that his group was “asked to look into . . . what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world.” After dismissing views that our success was tied to our military, politics, or economic system, they concluded: “the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.”
When Christopher Columbus set foot on land in the New World, these were his first words: “Blessed be the light of day, and the Holy Cross we say; and the Lord of Verity, and the Holy Trinity.”
The first set of written laws for the New World was the Mayflower Compact, ratified in 1620. Some have called it “the first American Constitution.” John Quincy Adams called it the foundation of the U.S. Constitution.
The Compact states that the Pilgrims came to the New World “for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith.” They made their covenant “in the Presence of God.” According to William Bradford, their governor, when the Pilgrims came ashore “they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean.”
Next came the “Fundamental Orders” of 1639, the first written Constitution in the New World. Its preamble states the colonists’ purpose: “To maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess.”
Scripture promises: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 33:12). “Blessed” translates a Hebrew word meaning, “to be so blessed as to be envied by others.” Every nation makes someone or something its god. But when we make our God the one true Lord of the universe, we position ourselves to be blessed by his grace.
Our Father will bless any nation whose people seek his favor: “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love” (Psalm 33:18). But as with the first Americans, we must choose to seek what his love intends to give.
The greatest gift we can give our nation is to help her citizens be people God can bless. So let’s choose to reverence God and place our hope in his love. Let’s pray for others to do the same.
And let’s pray what we sing: “God bless America.” Today and every day, to the glory of our Lord.
Another question, for another day, is this: Will God continue to bless America? The answer to that likely will depend upon both you and me.