While going through archives of family pictures and memorabilia, I came across a program from my husband’s high school graduation. Pictured on the front was a white cap and diploma, alongside red roses that had been arranged on blue satin cloth. Not only did it represent the blue and white colors of his school, it was strikingly patriotic. I opened it and found a rich history preserved on a folded 8 1/2 x 11″ sheet of paper.
The year was 1970. Two ceremonies had been planned ~ Baccalaureate on a Sunday evening and Commencement the following Wednesday. Baccalaureate began with an invocation from the Pastor of the Church of the Nazarene, which was followed by the Senior Ensemble singing “O Jesus Grant Me Hope and Comfort”. Scripture was read by the Priest from the Catholic Church and a message was delivered to the graduating class by the Pastor from the Community Church. The evening concluded with a benediction given by the Pastor of the Baptist Church. The following Wednesday, Commencement began and ended with prayer by the Minister of the Methodist Church.
Two ceremonies had taken place that sought the blessing of God on the lives of the next generation and no one cried “foul”. The concept of separation of church and state was understood in its proper context; a protective wall designed to prevent government from wielding authority over the Church. The state did not seek to muzzle truth and the liberty that flows from it. While recognizing a Sovereign God, the government of the United States would neither enforce nor prohibit fee public expression. Pastors were not silenced. Teachers and students were free to speak the Name of Jesus without facing consequences. It was not just at this school. It was the same where I graduated. Communities understood that our nation was built upon the Biblical principles of the Judeo-Christian faith and recognized that having truth proclaimed was not the equivalent of forcing anyone to embrace it.
We seem to have become complacent about the forces that have been eroding that foundation and the consequences are proving to be significant. As the references to God and faith have been removed from our history books and halls of learning, subsequent generations have been robbed of the knowledge of their heritage and, in turn, the liberty it has produced. Why does it matter? Because we cannot preserve a truth we have not been taught.
Of course, God’s truth stands whether it is accepted or rejected by men. God is no less God when forces seek to minimize or eradicate His Name in the public square. But the proverb is true, we reap what we sow, and excluding God doesn’t increase understanding, it diminishes it. The Bible is clear: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7) That was understood in 1970 and many still understand it today, though the numbers are diminishing.
Though America has always been a melting pot where people from other cultures and faiths come to live and freely worship, that spirit of welcoming was never intended to dismiss the foundation of Christian faith that provided liberty in the first place. No nation on earth has ever been so blessed or stood as such a beacon of hope for so many. No people have ever so diligently defended the cause of freedom around the world; all because of our recognition and responsibility to uphold the laws of God to be our brother’s keeper and to carry the light of liberty into the oppression of darkness.
The line will always be drawn in this world between secular ideology and the authority of Christ. It is only in embracing the latter that we are able to gain true knowledge and understand true freedom. Despite the voices that vehemently object, the words of 2 Corinthians 3:17 remain: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. Freedom is precious indeed. If we don’t proclaim its origin, who will?