What's right with America?


"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom God has chosen as His heritage."—Psalms 33:12

This summer I’m celebrating the 40th anniversary of a trip to the Soviet Union. Sponsored by The United Methodist Church, 21 college students, including myself, and eight professors spent four months studying in Europe, Asia, Russia, and even Siberia. It was a trip I will never forget.

Nearly everywhere we went, people wanted to know about being American. Our trip took place in the late 1960s, when the Cold War dominated world politics. Especially inside the Iron Curtain nations, citizens observed speaking to an American did so at risk of being arrested and sent to prison. Yet it seemed a risk worth taking, especially in Russia.

Just outside Moscow, a boy pulled me aside and asked, "What is it really like to live in America?"

I will never forget his face, fear mingling with curiosity, and he constantly glanced around for anyone watching or following. We spoke only a few moments before, too nervous, he walked away. I asked his name as he merged with a crowd. His response: "It’s best that you not know who I am."

I recall every detail of that encounter because my memory forever will retain his terror. That experience rocked me; I will not take for granted the freedoms I enjoy as an American.

We are approaching another Independence Day. How many of you give thought to the democratic liberties you enjoy as a citizen of this country? Political discussion in the 2008 presidential campaign has seemed to emphasize what’s wrong with America. Perhaps the time has come for us to shake loose from a negative view and undertake an appreciative analysis of our nation and its people.

In other words, why not ask, "What’s right with America?"

Founded under God

On Nov. 20, 1620, the ship Mayflower dropped anchor at Cape Cod. Before disembarking, the 100 passengers gathered in the belly of that tiny vessel to write an agreement that would govern the way they would live in a new country. That statement, the Mayflower Compact, began with the words "In the name of God. Amen."

In 1776, another group gathered, in Philadelphia, to draw up a Declaration of Independence for a new nation. That group set down a second ideal and principle that remains in effect today: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

America began with an emphasis on deep, personal faith in God. We are a nation founded under the sovereignty of God!

To believe in God means to believe there is objective truth and objective good to be known and obeyed. It means there is justice and right in the very nature and order of society.

Those who try to separate our highest democratic values from the religious founding that produced our great nation may discover many of the things that are wrong with our country.

 Everyone matters

Another principle of this nation dear to me is the belief that everyone—irrespective of place of birth, color, age, gender, or religion—is as good as I am. Because people are in relation to the Creator, ours is a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people.

Without question, the source and origin of this concept is taken from Judeo/Christian teachings. This principle reminds us that everyone matters, and that no one is beyond the laws or heritage that govern us. It provides equality of opportunity for all men and women; the practice of it makes America so right. It creates a majority without tyranny, and a minority without fear.

There is a lot that is right with America. By God’s grace, there is education in our land. We have schools and other institutions so people are informed, literate, and mannerly.

By the grace of God, there is healing in our land. Hospitals and medical centers can be found throughout our country. By the grace of God, there is benevolence. Our institutions of charity and goodwill help people all over the world.

Most importantly, there is worship in our land. The laws of God are taught. People grow in the knowledge of the Creator. They go forth to render service, in fuller obedience. Imagine the vast numbers of Americans who can be found freely engaged in worship.

I realize our system of governance is not perfect. Nor has it always operated equitably for all its citizens. Yet nowhere else will you find a nation like ours. As an American, I choose to live here, to work to overcome wrongs, to make our nation better.

If you travel to other countries, where freedoms such as ours are not in place, you will discover how blessed you are to be in this place where so much is right. God bless America!

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