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.

 

Ledbetter: Alabama’s teachers are standing tall with return to classroom instruction

All of the personality traits, values and life lessons that we carry with us as adults were shaped and instilled in us by the people we encountered in childhood. For many, the strongest influences came from our schoolteachers, who opened new worlds of knowledge and taught us skills that remain with us today.

Consider for a moment the music teacher who taught you to play an instrument, the math teacher who led you to a love of numbers, the history teacher who brought to life the stories of our nation’s past, or the English teacher who inspired you to love great literature.

Teaching is one of the few professions whose impact continues to last for decades after the individual who does the job retires.

As many children across Alabama are preparing to return to school even while the coronavirus pandemic continues, teachers have never been more important or vital or deserving of our deepest appreciation.

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Returning to brick-and-mortar school instruction will, hopefully, restore a sense of normalcy to our children’s lives in these decidedly abnormal times.

A return to the classroom and even resuming the online instruction that some are adopting will also help our students maintain their education progress and continue the important social and emotional development that interaction with their peers and instructors allows.

Our English second language learners will receive the communication skills they need in order to better assimilate, and many low-income students will receive the healthy nourishment from the school lunch program that might be denied them at home.

Given the current circumstances and environment, I recognize that some of our public school employees may have a sense of trepidation about returning to school, and that is certainly understandable. Wearing a face mask to do something as simple as shopping for groceries, paying for gas or walking into a restaurant offers all of us a constant reminder that COVID-19 is a very contagious virus.

But our teachers and educators are setting their concerns aside and answering the call to duty.

I know that Gov. Kay Ivey, State Superintendent Eric Mackey and the staff of the Alabama Department of Education took great care in developing the “Roadmap to Reopening Alabama Schools,” and local school boards are being equally diligent in creating and implementing their own safety guidelines.

The importance of sanitization will be stressed more than ever before, and billions of dollars made available to Alabama through the federal CARES Act will help ensure that any resources that are needed to reopen schools safely will be readily available.

As the majority leader of the Alabama House, I can also offer assurances that the legislature stands ready to pass legislation or make appropriations that are necessary to ease the return to classroom instruction once we are in session.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an even deeper appreciation of the frontline heroes who have remained on the job and provided the most essential services throughout the crisis.

Doctors and nurses in our hospitals and health clinics; grocery store and other retail employees; law enforcement officers, emergency workers and firefighters; postal workers; sanitation workers; restaurant personnel; and those in dozens of other professions are among those who continued working even when times were their toughest.

I am proud to say that the teachers, school nurses, administrators and support personnel in Alabama’s schools also rank high upon the list of those who have stood tall, and their already invaluable service to our state is even more important to students and parents in each of our cities, towns and crossroads today.

Helen Keller, one of Alabama’s most inspirational figures, once said, “It was my teacher’s genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact which made the first years of my education so beautiful. It was because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made it so pleasant and acceptable to me.”

As I close by wishing everyone a safe, happy and healthy school year, we would all do well to keep Helen Keller’s words in mind.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) serves as majority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives

5 hours ago

Alabama Ag Commissioner Pate gives update on unsolicited seed packages from China, urges public to stay ‘vigilant’

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Commissioner Rick Pate gave an update Monday afternoon on the spate of seed packets from China that people across Alabama have received in recent weeks despite never having ordered anything.

Pate said that after the state seed labs had performed tests on the packets they had collected from individuals across Alabama, and none of them proved to be dangerous.

“Right at 50% of them proved be some kind of weed flower … 41% were vegetables, and 9% were herbs … we found no noxious compounds, no dangerous compounds,” said Pate at the event.

However, he warned, “They might send out the first seeds that weren’t treated with anything, have a sense of security come about, and then later send something out that could be harmful.”

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The commissioner further urged members of the public to refrain from planting any unsolicited seeds and continue to report them to the Department.

“At the very least something criminal has gone on here,” stated Pate, referencing laws that prevent seeds from being moved across state lines without being inspected by the relevant agencies.

Pate said his department had collected 252 seed samples as of Monday morning.

A total of 385 individuals in all but 11 of Alabama’s 67 counties have received one of the packets, according to information relayed at the press conference. State workers will be collecting the remaining samples soon.

(AL. Dept. of Ag/Contributed)

“Because we’ve got such a good food and drug lab, because we’ve got such a good seed lab, we knew this was inside of our comfort zone,” Pate said of the decision to conduct the seed tests in-house as opposed to shipping them to the federal government.

Andy Tipton, division director of Food Safety and Ag Compliance, said that 25 states had reported similar seed packets showing up at consumers’ doorsteps. He added that the ADAI was turning over all relevant info to the FBI, who were monitoring the situation.

Pate further told Yellowhammer News that one of the prevailing theories remained that the cause was an internet seller running a scam to artificially inflate their customer numbers and create opportunities for fake reviews.

He ended his press conference saying, “We have no idea the reason for this happening, but it doesn’t mean we can stop being vigilant.”

Any Alabamian still receiving one of the packets can report it here.

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

6 hours ago

Alabama basketball star John Petty returning for senior season

University of Alabama star forward John Petty, Jr. will return for his senior season, the player announced on Monday.

The Huntsville native was a second-team All-SEC honoree this past season, after leading the Southeastern Conference in three-point percentage.

Petty was considering entering the 2020 NBA Draft, however he decided to return for a final season in Tuscaloosa after evaluating his prospects. Another college season could see Petty lock down his chance at being a first-round pick.

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Tide head coach Nate Oats released a statement on Monday afternoon celebrating Petty’s return.

“It’s great to have John back for his senior year,” Oats said. “He is certainly one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country which is extremely important to us with how we play.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal. Let’s get to work!” the coach concluded.

Follow along with the Bama men’s basketball program here.

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

6 hours ago

State of Alabama, University of Alabama System officials unveil GuideSafe app aiming to keep schools virus-free

Key figures from Alabama’s government and university systems joined to announced the new GuideSafe platform that bills itself as the key for students to safely return to college campuses amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The GuideSafe platform will help the state fulfill its promise to test every single college student before they return to campus, and the platform will provide a space for ongoing health monitoring throughout the semester.

The unveiling took place over videoconference, where State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John and other key players detailed the importance of GuideSafe to the upcoming semester.

GuideSafe was developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and tech company MotionMobs. It will be provided to any educational institution in the state that wishes to use it.

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Governor Kay Ivey apportioned some of Alabama’s CARES Act funds for the development of GuideSafe and the universal free testing for college students.

St. John on Monday praised Ivey’s “decisive action to provide funding” for the testing initiative and other campus reopening measures.

(Click for higher resolution version that will open in new tab)

GuideSafe will be accessible via app on smartphones and tablets and via web browser on any computer. Students will be invited to join the platform in the coming weeks.

One of the key features of the GuideSafe app is that it will track the location of students via smartphone and then inform them if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“This new app – using Google- and Apple-led technology and created by UAB faculty, staff and MotionMobs for the people of Alabama – is a necessary tool in our effort to return to college campuses safely this fall,” said UAB President Ray Watts.

The app also allows students and faculty to report symptoms as they experience them, and get directed to a nearby testing site if necessary.

“The combination of these tools enables every participating college, university and K-12 school to engage faculty, students and staff regarding on-going monitoring of symptoms, exposure and risks of acquiring COVID-19,” said Sue Feldman, professor and director of graduate programs in health informatics at UAB.

A general factsheet on GuideSafe is available here.

Watch:

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

6 hours ago

Trump fires TVA board chair after outsourcing uproar

President Donald Trump on Monday announced that he was removing the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board chairman, Skip Thompson, an Alabamian.

Thompson, a resident of Decatur, is the president and CEO of Corporate Billing, a subsidiary of Birmingham-based National Bank of Commerce. He previously served as the president and CEO of both First American Bank in Decatur and First Commercial Bank in Huntsville, as well as serving on the board of Decatur Utilities.

Trump appointed Thompson to the TVA board in 2018. He was elected chairman of the board last year.

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The president on Monday cited TVA’s plan to outsource information technology jobs overseas as the reason for firing Thompson and one other board member. Trump warned the other board members that they would be next if the outsourcing continued. The president also called on them to replace the organization’s CEO, who Trump said was making far too much money.

The president added, “Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: ‘You’re fired.’”

The TVA is the electricity provider for much of North Alabama. Self-described as “a corporate agency of the United States,” it is regulated at the federal level and not under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) applauded Trump’s move on Monday.

“TVA fires AMERICANS & hires cheap foreign labor,” the North Alabama congressman tweeted. “TVA executive salaries EXORBITANT. TVA=NO competition, unlike private sector execs who compete to earn profits to earn pay… WAY TO GO [President Trump]!”

RELATED: Doug Jones: ‘The TVA has lost its way’

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