Reflecting on Independence Day and its meaning


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APPRECIATING OUR INDEPENDENCE AND ITS AUTHORS

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, today is Independence Day, Fourth of July. It is our nation’s 242nd birthday. Harry, the providence of God established this great nation and, obviously, the providence of God will take us forward. Give us your thoughts on our beginnings and where do we go from here.

DR. REEDER: One of the reasons that this country celebrates July the Fourth was the exhortation of the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, who said every year the country ought to celebrate its birthdays with fireworks, and celebrations, and parades, etc. Interestingly, he was also supported by then-his colleague and friend, John Adams, but they would later, out of John Adams’ term as president, begin a little bit on the opposite sides of the fence in terms of the proper role of the executive branch — Thomas Jefferson ran against John Adams and defeated him in a very close race.

The one who wrote the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, the one who encouraged him to write it and was his supporter in the writing of it, John Adams, were friends and then became political opponents but always kept a concern for each other. Interestingly, both died on July the Fourth in the same year and both of them, in their dying words, asked about the other.

GOD HAS GUIDED THIS “AMERICAN EXPERIMENT”

Also, when I think about July the Fourth, I think of the providence of God that gave birth to this nation and the providence of God that has maintained and matured this nation. This has been called, rightly, “The American Experiment”. I’d like to recommend a book to our listeners today, Tom, and that is the book “Indivisible” by Os Guinness — I think they would find that extremely insightful — and, in that book, he identifies a number of things, what I believe are the three profound movements that have affected this nation.

First is the Great Awakening from 1735 to 1765, which drastically affected the Christian world and life view and its dominant impact throughout our country, not that everyone was a Christian by any means. The world and life view that was guiding the country was clearly a Biblical world and life view, which led to the Biblical understanding that the best rule of a people is law, not another person.

With a republic — that is, a law in which people elect their representatives who take oaths to a Constitution, a law, and their job is to apply the law — you now have a king that is the law. That’s exactly the book that had the great impact, the book of Samuel Rutherford to Lex Rex and that is “the law is king.” We are quite the experiment that the law could be king in a democratic process of electing our representatives and, while they represent people and care for the people, their oath of allegiance is to the Constitution.

Secondly, that world and life view was then buttressed by the Second Great Awakening from 1785 that lasted until about 1880 with numerous revivals throughout our country in regions and nationally and that not only maintained our view of liberty that is bounded within law — law is what keeps liberty from becoming anarchy — but that you apply law and the purpose of law is to protect liberty and the inalienable rights that God has given to man and the government doesn’t grant those rights but protects them and the maturing of that so that, eventually, the stupidity of enslaving people and not protecting their rights, as was done to the Africans that were brought to this country, that was eventually abolished and then the protecting of their rights and their attempt to control them with Jim Crow laws, that was eventually abolished. And I think it is actually the First Amendment of free speech and the free practice of religion that not only maintained the freedoms of this American Experiment and its government structure through multiple crisis, but also matured them.

And then the third great movement was the affirmation of the Bill of Rights which protects all of those liberties.

APPRECIATING THE WISE LEADERSHIP OF GEORGE WASHINGTON, FIRST PRESIDENT

Then I would say there were three times that the founder of this country, as you celebrate July the Fourth — you might remember George Washington — the three “no’s” of George Washington — that is N-O’S. First, the pastor who had prayed for the Continental Congress in his prayer regularly was a glorious prayer, after Philadelphia was conquered, was persuaded to write a letter to George Washington at Valley Forge encouraging him to surrender and George Washington said no. And then when George Washington has the opportunity, because of chaos in the nation, to not be a president but to be a dictator and to be a “king” and he said no. The way he said no humbled those who were trying to force him to say yes. And then, thirdly, when he refused a third term in office but said no to the third term and brought forth not a legislative but a president establishing to limited terms to the office that now stands as a law but, back then, he set the precedent. Those three no’s of George Washington, I think, ought to be celebrated.

THE WISDOM OF THREE BRANCHES STILL SUSTAINS US TODAY

And then, finally, Tom, I think we ought to celebrate the ingenious of the Constitutional infrastructure that has been established where the law is executed by an executive office, as we noted in yesterday’s program, it is applied by the judiciary, and then laws are made and amended by a legislature. And all three branches are populated through an approval process of either elections or appointments by those who have been elected.

You have that replicated at three levels — the local level, the state level and the national level — and the Constitutional clearly declares that the power does not start at the national level and is granted to the state level and, from the state to the local, but it is in the other direction, the Bill of Rights affirms the rights of the states and the powers of the federal government are only those that have been granted by the state.

OUR LORD STILL SUSTAINS US — DARE WE ASK FOR ANOTHER REVIVAL OF FAITH IN OUR NATION?

I find that very ingenious but, most of all, I’m grateful that, this July the Fourth that God has extended His providence in that there has been the blessing of God with these Gospel awakenings and I am praying for a third Gospel awakening — I’m laboring for it and I’m praying for it so that we see the transforming grace of God and the country is made from the ground up through changed lives as the Lord Jesus saves us not only from sin’s guilt and shame and brings us from a destiny of eternal destruction and Hell to the glorious blessing of eternal life. I pray that for everyone that’s listening. And if you’ve never made that commitment to Jesus Christ, that would be the greatest liberty that you could celebrate this July the Fourth.

And, in the meantime, I also want to labor for God’s common grace, that he would restrain our society from the inevitable demise that we see in every culture. There’s two tipping points that I try to share from a Christian world and life view. One is that every movement at the 40 to 80-year mark almost always begins to descend downward as it loses its moorings from its origination. You see that in the Book of Judges, the nation of Israel was in desperate need of a judge that would lead them back to godliness and righteousness and wisdom and a revival.

OUR NATION IS AN EXPERIMENTAL SUCCESS STORY OUTLASTING OTHERS; PLEASE, LORD, GRANT US MORE

However, you also see in the affairs of nations that most nations only last 150 to 250 years. Their death from the outside was preceded from their death from the inside. The death from the inside was not some major apostasy — it was simply the death of 1,000 cuts as the moral center and gravitas of the nation is lost. I believe the gravitas of this nation has been the imperfect but steady of influence of the Evangelical church for Jesus Christ.

I am a patriot. I love the Gospel to go to all the nations, but I do, like the Reformers, pray for the Gospel to go to my own nation. Calvin sent 1,300 missionaries to France and the French Huguenot church was born. Knox said, “Give me Scotland or I die.” Latimer and Ridley, as they were dying in the flames at Oxford said, “We’re lighting a candle for Christ that shall not be put out in all of England.”

I pray for the same thing in my own country. He has placed me in a nation and I, with the Psalmist, this July the Fourth say, “Praise God, the lines of life have fallen to me in a goodly place,” but I pray that God would grant this place repentance and we would see this de-evolution of society reversed through the power of the Gospel. As men and women are changed from the inside out, God would raise this nation from the inside out and we would again say, “Let freedom roll and let justice come down like waters.”

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

 

1 hour ago

Why Governor Ivey is the champion Alabama’s prisons desperately need right now

Alabama’s prisons are a dangerous place to be. Alabama’s prison population sits at over 160% of its designed capacity, with a homicide rate nearly nine times the national average. In 2019, there were 14 homicides in state prisons. This does not include the number of suicides or drug overdoses, which are also high in the state’s prisons.

But thanks to Governor Kay Ivey, Alabama’s correctional system is undergoing a vital transformation. This is especially important as prisons across the U.S. continue to pose a high coronavirus risk. There have been no diagnosed cases of coronavirus in Alabama’s prisons yet, but the governor’s COVID-19 task force has been at work with the Alabama Department of Corrections on a proactive plan to stop the spread of the virus in prisons.

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Furthermore, in January of this year, Governor Ivey convened a Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy, which is an example that other states struggling with prison violence and high crime rates should draw from. The Group is bringing an informed, thoughtful and research-based approach to modernizing Alabama’s justice system to create safer and more thriving communities than the way our country has approached incarceration in the past.

I commend the governor for the steps she is taking for Alabama’s future – both before and during the coronavirus pandemic. In February, Governor Ivey endorsed several justice reform initiatives that will increase safety in the state’s prisons and support rehabilitation efforts. The measures include a revision to the oath of office taken by correctional officers that emphasizes rehabilitation; increased funding for prison education and mental health services; a requirement for prisoners to undergo mandatory supervision before their release to reduce recidivism; and eligibility for revised sentences for nonviolent crimes.

Measures like these do not make our communities less safe; in fact, they do the opposite. With justice reform measures being taken in both the federal and state systems at unprecedented levels, violent crime has decreased 5% over the past three years. According to criminology experts, incarceration actually has a marginal impact on crime, especially violent crime; in some cases, research has shown that incarceration can actually increase crime. This has been referred to as “the prison paradox.”

What does decrease crime? Education. Substance abuse services. Mental health services. Employment assistance. All of these have been proven to lower recidivism and crime. Since 2007, more than 30 states have passed reforms that address these issues and prioritize prison beds for serious offenders. Indeed, if smart and measured approaches recommended by the Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy are adopted by the legislature, Alabama can see its crime rates drop, its overall prison population drop, and its state prison budget drop.

Justice reform is one of the rare issues that is receiving bipartisan support – not just in Alabama but across the country. America’s high incarceration rate – the highest in the world – takes a massive human toll on families, individuals and communities. But increasingly, leaders like President Trump on the federal level and Governor Ivey on the state level are proving that you can be both “tough on crime” and “smart on crime” at the same time.

Moreover, the goals of justice reform measures are consistent with faith-based values. These values balance personal responsibility with forgiveness, compassion and mercy. This is an issue that can’t wait for attention. It’s also an issue that will allow us to pull together at a time when we face an unprecedented “invisible enemy” in the coronavirus, when we are divided by political partisanship and are facing an uncertain economic future. In this time of anxiety for vulnerable family, friends and loved ones, Governor Ivey is taking the necessary steps to bring change to Alabama’s justice system. I support Attorney General Barr’s recent order to the federal Bureau of Prisons to grant home confinement to many sick and elderly inmates during the coronavirus, and hope similar steps are taken in state and local prisons across the country. And I urge Alabamans not to forget about the incarcerated as they consider the future of their communities and their country.

Timothy Head is the executive director for the Faith & Freedom Coalition, a national grassroots movement of over 2 million conservatives and people of faith in support of time-honored values, stronger families, and individual freedom.

Byrne: Hope in the time of the coronavirus

In Genesis 2, God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” He made us for Himself, but he also made us for one another. We are intimately connected to one another, and separation, even though for our own physical health, and even though on a temporary basis, is painful for us all.

John Donne, the dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London during the 17th century, said, “No man is an island, entire unto itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” He went on to say, “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”

We are not “islands,” we are part of the “main” of all humans and “involved” in the life of the world here and now. Disease and death diminish us all. But, they don’t have to defeat us. We can and will defeat this disease.

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This fight against the coronavirus called COVID-19 is hard. We are forced to separate from one another, a necessary infringement on our humanity, and however necessary, an infringement on basic liberties. Our economy is sorely wounded. Worse, our neighbors are infected with this disease, some fighting for their lives, some tragically losing that fight.

We are better, stronger than this disease. Brave men and women on the frontline, doctors and nurses, first responders and health paraprofessionals, pharmacists and those working to provide us food and necessities, are showing the indomitable American will, the will to win. And, yet, all of us have a role to play, to responsibly social distance from one another, to practice proper hygiene and to know when its time to be tested and/or to quarantine ourselves.

We have weathered diseases before in our history. The 1918 Flu Pandemic. The Polio Epidemic of the 1950s. Yellow Fever ravaged early Mobile and all of Alabama off and on during the 19th century. But, in all of those we didn’t have the public health resources in near the abundance we do now.

The public health professionals tell us that we must slow down the spread of the disease so it doesn’t overwhelm our hospitals and health care providers. That’s why we have social distancing.

We know the disease is spread person to person or when one of us touches a surface where the virus is still alive. By stopping our natural human contact, in our jobs, our schools, our restaurants and bars, our non-essential retailers, our group meetings, our social meetings and even in our worship services, we stop the spread and give our health care professionals the time and resources to help us, to heal us and, for some, to save us.

This obviously hurts us economically and socially. And we don’t need to continue it one minute longer than is needed. We will know when we can start to relax the mandates against social mingling. It will be when the number of new cases starts to come down on a sustained basis; not when we have no new cases, but when the number of new cases, or the rate of new cases, comes down day after day. As we get more tests out there, and new tests are increasing at a fast pace now, we will have a lot more cases. That doesn’t mean it’s spreading at that rate. In part, it just means that we are seeing the natural result of all this new testing.

A couple of data points are important to keep in mind. Only between 10 and 15 percent of all people tested in the US at present are testing positive. The vast majority tested here don’t have the disease. And remember, we are in many places only testing those at risk. As testing gets far wider, that rate may come down. Of those who do test positive, 80 percent have no or only mild symptoms. But, 20 percent need some form of significant care. They are of all ages, by the way, so the fact that you are young doesn’t protect you. And, tragically around 1 percent to 1.5 percent die. That may not sound like much but it’s 10 to 15 times higher than the flu.

Meanwhile, all levels of government play an important role. Our governors and mayors, as well as public health officers, must issue the appropriate orders to protect us all. Closing restaurants and bars, beaches and parks, small retailers and large group meetings, are each hard decisions. The economic and social ramifications are far-reaching. They must start, and they must end, at the right times, based upon sound medical and professional advice, and plain common sense.

We at the federal government must work with state and local leaders to inform their difficult decisions and help them, where appropriate, carry out these tough decisions.

The fathers of two of my House colleagues have served at the highest level of our government. I asked them both if their dads had seen anything like it. Jimmy Panetta, whose dad, Leon Panetta has been White House chief of staff, secretary of Defense and CIA director, said his father had never seen anything like it. Liz Cheney, whose dad, Dick Cheney has been vice president, White House chief of staff and secretary of Defense, said the closest experience in her father’s career was 9/11. Jimmy and Liz, Leon and Dick, Democrats and Republicans. We’ve rarely, if ever, seen anything like this.

When last week’s unemployment insurance filings were reported at over 3 million, the highest ever by far in our history, and when the number of cases and deaths dramatically expanded, it was clear we had entered truly extraordinary times, calling for extraordinary government action.

So, with broad and deep bipartisan support, we passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Security Act (CARES Act), providing over $2 trillion in support for individual citizens, workers who have lost their jobs, small businesses so that they will not close or lay off their workers, larger businesses in the way of loans and not bailouts, healthcare, education, transit, and more. Unprecedented resources have been quickly directed for more tests, more personal protective equipment, research and development for treatments and even a cure, and ultimately a vaccine.

I don’t like everything in the bill. In fact, there were parts that I strongly disagreed with. The time to talk about those, and how they came to be stuffed into an otherwise crucial bill, will come later, and those responsible will be named. But, our people are hurting, our way of life threatened, and this is no time to let these issues slow down the effort to get the job done. Indeed, I had hoped that the vast majority of us in the House could have avoided having to take the risk to actually travel to Washington and be in a room with hundreds of others as we have ordered the rest of the country not to do, but one member threatened to further delay the bill and so I and another 200-plus members made the trip and got the bill passed.

Like most of you, I am working from home and maintaining social distance. My staff is also working and our offices open for you but we ask that you call and not try to come in. We have helped repatriate a number of citizens from our district who have found themselves stuck in a foreign country closing its borders. We are answering many phone calls on the laws we have passed to respond to this disease and with questions about the disease itself.

I must confess, I don’t like to be kept at arm’s length from the people I serve. It runs against everything in me, but I recognize the wisdom of it. We in positions of public authority have the heavy responsibility of gauging how long this must continue and I pray that it is a matter of weeks, not months. But, unfortunately, the virus dictates that; I just want us all, at every level of government, to exercise good common sense. In the meantime, I feel like the words of the old song by one of Alabama’s sons, Hank Williams: “I’m so lonesome I could cry.”

Last week, I was on a number of conference calls with groups in the district and a teletownhall with nearly 4,000 constituents. In one, a person asked me to give them hope. I was struck by that simple request, that we provide hope.

So, here goes.

We are a great and powerful nation. We were born in an uncertain and dangerous revolution, invaded even in our Capitol by the greatest power in the world just 40 years after our founding, suffered a civil war costing 600,000 of our lives, fought two desperate world wars, watched our economy nearly disappear in a Great Depression, tore ourselves apart in the social upheavals of the 60s, and endured an attack by terrorists on our largest city and the center of our national defense. And yet, after each one we Americans not only survived, we learned how to make our country greater, how to perfect our union.

The prophet Isaiah, writing during the Babylonian captivity, put it in beautiful language:

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

And, as we approach Passover and Easter, let us remember the hope expressed in the miraculous delivery of the Jewish people from slavery and the resurrection of Christ who defeated death itself. Indeed, Solomon said in his Eighth Song, “Love is as strong as death.”

That’s the ultimate reason for hope: God’s love for us all overcomes death.

As we mourn those we have lost to this disease, as we continue to miss the physical presence of one another, as we struggle with the testing and spread of the disease, and as we fight to preserve our economy and our way of life, let us be confident in the ultimate result, using our own strength and leaning on God’s.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

3 hours ago

‘We Are Magic’: Video highlights resilience of Birmingham in face of coronavirus, urges support of local businesses

Birmingham-based Telegraph Creative on Sunday released a moving video entitled, “We Are Magic,” showcasing the spirit of optimism, unity and hope that Magic City residents are displaying in the face of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Coronavirus continues to impact the city in unprecedented — and sometimes devastating — ways, but Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, who narrated the video, praised locals for being “people who dig deep and don’t quit.”

Woodfin pledged that “we will thrive the only way we know how — by lifting each other up, and helping our neighbors.”

In keeping with the theme of the project, every aspect of the video is local.

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Just over two minutes in length, the video was shot in Birmingham and features local talent, businesses and business owners, as well as music by a local musician. Some recognizable faces include Ezekiel Hameen from Z’s Restaurant; Chris and Idie Hastings from Hot and Hot Fish Club; Andrew Collins from Cayo Coco; Tim Hontzas from Johnny’s; and Kristen Hall and Victor King from The Essential and Bandit.

Telegraph Creative CEO Cliff Sims advised that the company created the video as a way to bring people together at a time when everyone is having to keep their distance in an effort to stop the virus from spreading. To keep all involved parties safe and healthy, social distancing rules were observed during the making of the video.

“These are difficult and uncertain times. We are fighting an invisible enemy that’s tearing through our communities, and it’s taking a toll on all of us,” Sims said in a statement.

“Our team created this video to show the spirit of unity that’s building, even in the midst of hardship — people buying a little extra to support local shops, tipping a little more to help out their favorite restaurants, and smiling a little longer to comfort a stranger across the street. Mayor Woodfin perfectly sums it up when he says, ‘The real magic of the Magic City is us, together. Even when we’re apart.’ The spirit of Birmingham is unbreakable,” he concluded.

Watch:


Full video transcript as follows:

They call her “The Magic City.”

She earned the name because
she rose up from nothing, seemingly overnight,
forging a place of her own.
Birmingham rising
was truly a thing to behold.

On downtown streets born from industry,
where neighborhood shops line the same cobblestone alleys,
Birmingham’s history looms over her present,
like an inventor over her apprentice,
imploring us to keep the magic alive.

Birmingham’s magic is more than a nickname.
It’s the people who dig deep and don’t quit,
with the grit and determination to build something incredible.
It’s the steel-clad bonds that make a community,
and an iron will to survive.

If we have learned anything, it’s that
the spirit of Birmingham is unbreakable.
And we will thrive the only way we know how —
by lifting each other up, and helping our neighbors.

The real magic
of the Magic City
is us, together.
Even when we’re apart.

We are Birmingham.
We are magic.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Merrill outlines how Alabama will spend election-related federal stimulus money

Included in the recently enacted $2 trillion federal coronavirus (COVID-19) stimulus package was $400 million to be allocated to the states to protect the integrity of the nation’s electoral process.

Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill’s office on Monday released information detailing that the Yellowhammer State will receive $6,473,611, which will further be matched 20% by the secretary of state’s office ($1,294,723) for a total of $7,768,334.

This funding will cover both the primary runoff on July 14 as well as the general election on November 3.

“Our intentions are to use this funding to reimburse counties for various preparation and election expenses including, but not limited to, masks, gloves, disinfectant spray, hand-sanitizer, alcohol wipes, and professional cleaning services to return the polling places back to their safe and sanitary pre-election condition,” the secretary of state’s office stated.

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An application for county commissions to request reimbursement will be provided on the official website of the secretary of state’s office as soon as the money is made available to the State.

Additionally, $900,000 of the total will be allocated to reimburse absentee election managers for increased costs resulting from the lengthened absentee voting period, and $1,000,000 will be used to compensate poll workers with an additional $25.00 on Election Day.

“I am extremely grateful for the leadership displayed by Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Richard Shelby and for their listening to the concerns I expressed as well as the advice and guidance provided by other chief election officials from across the country. It is important that those at the state and local level are granted the flexibility to address the needs of their respective communities,” Merrill said.

“This funding will protect the health and safety of our voters, poll workers, and others involved in the electoral process,” he added. “I also appreciate the assistance provided by Governor Kay Ivey’s Office, the State Comptroller’s Office, and the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.”

Reports of state spending will be submitted to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for full transparency and public inspection. All resources must be expended for these purposes no later than December 31, 2020, Merrill’s office advised.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Ivey urges Alabamians to practice social distancing — ‘With faith and perseverance we’ll get through this together’

Governor Kay Ivey released a video Monday urging Alabamians to practice social distancing, staying six feet apart from each other, during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“For now and for the foreseeable future please consider staying safe at home,” says Ivey near the beginning of the video.

The governor’s video comes on the same day President Donald Trump approved a State of Emergency for Alabama that will make it easier for the federal government to provide assistance in recovering from the coronavirus.

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Ivey tells the public that now is a time for neighborliness. She urges people to let others help them if help is needed.

To conclude the message Ivey quotes part of 1 Peter 5:10. She says, “The God of all grace, after you have suffered a little while, will restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Watch:


Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.