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.

 

2 hours ago

Mobile native Hank Aaron, the greatest ever to play baseball, passes away

Native Alabamian Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron, widely regarded as one of history’s best ever baseball players, passed away on Friday at the age of 86.

Born and raised in Mobile, Aaron spent most of his childhood in Toulminville. Growing up in a poor family in the segregated South, his family could not afford baseball equipment, so Aaron practiced the game he loved by hitting bottle caps with sticks. He would also create his own bats and balls out of materials he found on the streets.

As a teenager, he started rising through the ranks as a member of the Mobile Black Bears, a semipro team at the time in the Negro Leagues. At age 20, he made his Major League Baseball debut with the then-Milwaukee Braves.

Over the course of his 23-year MLB career, Aaron became a giant across the country. He would end his legendary playing days as the all-time leader in home runs, RBIs, total bases reached and extra-base hits. He won a World Series in 1957 with the Braves and was the NL MVP that season.

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Among a litany of honors, Aaron was selected to an All-Star team 25 times, which is the most by any player in MLB history. His No. 44 is retired by the Milwaukee Brewers and the Atlanta Braves. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown in 1982 on the first ballot and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.

Aaron spent much of his post-playing career in Atlanta as an executive with the Braves. He made the city his own for decades, and passed away in his home there on Friday morning, according to Georgia’s CBS 46.

Governor Kay Ivey mourned Aaron’s death in a tweet.

Hank Aaron Stadium immortalizes the late, native Mobilian in his hometown. This is the former home of the semipro team now known as the Rocket City Trash Pandas, when the team was the Mobile Bay Bears.

UPDATE 11:10 a.m.

Ivey has ordered flags in Alabama be flown at half-staff immediately to honor Aaron. Flags should be flown at half-staff until sunset on Friday.

Congressman Jerry Carl (AL-01), who represents Mobile in the U.S. House of Representatives, released a statement.

“I’m deeply saddened to learn of Hank Aaron’s passing,” said Carl. “A Mobile native, ‘Hammerin’ Hank’ was a baseball legend respected not only for his performance on the field, but also for his personal integrity and character. Hank Aaron never let his humble upbringing and lack of access to baseball equipment as a young boy hamper his growth or dedication to the game. Throughout his storied career, he would ultimately smash multiple baseball hall of fame records, most notably shattering Babe Ruth’s home run record by hitting 755 home runs. I’m proud to call him a fellow Mobilian, and I know his family and friends take comfort knowing his memory lives on in the lives of so many. My prayers are with the family and friends of Hank Aaron today.”

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

2 hours ago

Gen. Lloyd Austin confirmed as secretary of Defense with Shelby’s, Tuberville’s support

U.S. Army General Lloyd J. Austin (Ret.) on Friday was confirmed in a bipartisan 93-2 vote by the United States Senate as the next secretary of the Department of Defense.

Austin, who is a native of Mobile and currently serves on the Auburn University board of trustees, becomes the first black defense secretary in American history. He was nominated by President Joe Biden for the post.

U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) voted to support Austin’s confirmation.

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Tuberville said in a statement, “Retired General Lloyd Austin is a son of the great state of Alabama – born in Mobile and an Auburn University alumnus and Trustee – who understands the critical role our state’s five military bases play in supporting America’s armed forces. General Austin’s decades of service make him well-positioned to lead the Department of Defense and confront the threats facing our country. I look forward to working with him for the benefit of Alabamians, Americans, and all of our men and women in uniform to advance the safety and security of our great nation.”

The Senate vote came after both chambers of Congress the prior day granted him a waiver to the law requiring that the secretary of Defense either be a civilian or someone who has been retired from the military for seven or more years.

After a nearly 41-year decorated military career, Austin retired in 2016 as a four-star general. Some of his former posts include service as the commander of U.S. Central Command, commander of the Combined Forces in Iraq and Syria, and as the 33rd vice chief of staff of the Army.

Austin is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds master’s degrees from Auburn and Webster University. He has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Auburn, and his wife, Charlene, is also an Auburn graduate.

Additionally, the retired general currently serves on the board of directors for Raytheon Technologies and Nucor, both of which have significant Alabama presences.

UPDATE 11:30 a.m.

In a tweet, Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03), who represents Auburn in the U.S. House of Representatives, applauded the confirmation. Rogers is ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“Congratulations to General Austin on his historic confirmation. I appreciate his longstanding commitment to our military, and I look forward to working with him to provide our men and women in uniform all the resources they need to successfully defend our nation,” said Rogers.

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

3 hours ago

Two Alabama Democrats file lawsuit, claim Doug Jones tried to ‘give control of the Alabama Democratic Party to Whites’

Two members of the Alabama Democratic Conference have filed a lawsuit against Tom Perez, the national Democratic Party’s former chair. They claim he and former Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) attempted to “give control of the Alabama Democratic Party to Whites.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal court by Randy Kelley and Janet May. Both are affiliates of the Alabama Democratic Conference, a group that describes itself as the “Black Political Caucus of Alabama” and operates independently of the official state Democratic Party.

The case stems from a years-long dispute over Democratic leadership in Alabama.

Barry Ragsdale, an attorney who was has supported the Perez-aligned faction of Alabama Democrats that now controls the party, attacked the validity of the lawsuit.

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“The Plaintiffs are just sore losers, who can’t accept their defeat and who now recklessly scream ‘racism’ because they know that neither the law or the facts support their legal claims,” Ragsdale said in a statement to Alabama Media Group.

The lawsuit is the latest action in an extended legal imbroglio that began in 2018.

Then-Senator Doug Jones, unhappy with a state Democratic party infrastructure that he felt was ineffective, attempted to install a personal friend and ally as chair of the state party during a party meeting.

That effort failed, and Nancy Worley was reelected to the position of state chair with the backing of the Alabama Democratic Conference and its longtime leader Joe Reed.

However, a group of Alabama Democrats asserted there were irregularities in how the party’s internal election was conducted.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) examined the allegations of improper conduct and found them to be valid, ultimately ordering the state party to conduct new elections.

After much intraparty fighting, which led to an extended court battle, State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) emerged as the party chairman.

England, who is the state party’s first black chairperson, had the backing of Jones and the DNC.

Worley ultimately stopped pursuing her claim to be party chair in the spring of 2020 after a state judge dismissed a last-ditch suit.

The new England-led regime at the Alabama Democratic Party passed new bylaws that govern the state party and set out how the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) is elected.

Those changes, backed by England, Jones, Perez and the DNC, are the subject of Kelley and May’s lawsuit filed in recent days.

The suit names Perez, England and the SDEC as defendants.

Kelley and May say the changes do not comply with a 1991 federal court order that required black members of the party receive proportional representation on the executive committee to their share of Democratic votes cast.

“After Blacks became a majority of the SDEC, the governing body, Perez joined with Senator Doug Jones and others to weaken Black’ influence and give the control of the Alabama Democratic Party to Whites,” Kelley said in a release posted publicly by the Alabama Democratic Conference.

The new bylaws do change the method of ensuring a proportional amount of black members are on the executive committee. Similar to the previous arrangement, black individuals are added as at large members to ensure proper representation numbers.

However, in the new bylaws, the executive committee as a whole selects the at large members instead of leaving the selection of the at large members to the minority caucus.

Joe Reed and the Democratic Conference leadership had control over the equivalent of the minority caucus in the version of the party that existed before 2019. They regularly used the ability to select members as a tool to assert influence over the state party.

The Alabama Democratic Conference said in its statement that it believes the 2019 changes to how the executive committee is composed amount to “undermining, diluting, and discriminating against Black Democrats.”

Ragsdale pushed back on the assertions by Kelley, May and the Democratic Conference, telling Alabama Media Group that the plaintiffs “can’t accept that their side lost after an open and fair election.”

Ragsdale continued, “At its core, this most recent lawsuit is anti-democratic and an attack on the values of inclusion and diversity that guide the Democratic Party.”

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

4 hours ago

Alabama’s unemployment rate dips to 3.9%, lowest point of pandemic

The Alabama Department of Labor on Friday announced that the state’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted December unemployment rate was 3.9%, the lowest mark since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The latest figure came in the final full month of President Donald J. Trump’s administration and was down from November’s rate of 4.4%. December’s rate represented 87,534 unemployed Alabamians, compared to 100,374 the previous month.

While the latest rate is much improved from April’s bleak 13.4%. it is also still above December 2019’s rate of 2.7%, showing significant work is needed to get back to year-over-year parity.

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Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said in a statement, “This is the lowest unemployment rate Alabama has seen since the pandemic began, and I’m glad to see us close out 2020 on a good note.”

“While we are pleased to see our rate continue to drop, we know there is still a lot more work to be done,” he continued. “More than 26,000 Alabamians are unemployed now than at the same time last year. We are still down more than 34,000 jobs from last year. Our work in 2021 will be focused on continuing this recovery.”

Wage and salary employment grew in December by 6,200. According to a release, monthly gains were seen in the trade, transportation and utilities sector (+7,700), the leisure and hospitality sector (+3,000), and the education and health services sector (+1,100), for example. Over the year, the biggest losses in wage and salary employment came in the leisure and hospitality sector (-19,400), the education and health services sector (-16,400), and the government sector (-9,700), among others.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates in December were: Cullman County at 2.1%; Shelby, Marshall and Franklin Counties at 2.2%; and DeKalb and Cleburne Counties at 2.3%.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were: Wilcox County at 10.6%, Lowndes County at 10.2% and Perry County at 7.8%.

Meanwhile, major cities with the lowest unemployment rates were: Homewood and Vestavia Hills at 1.7%; Alabaster at 2.0%; and Madison at 2.1%. Major cities with the highest unemployment rates were: Prichard at 11%; Selma at 9.0%; and Bessemer and Anniston at 7.0%.

(Click for high-quality image)

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

5 hours ago

7 Things: Biden and Ivey keep masks on, cautious start for coming legislative session, Alabama Dems must want Mo Brooks to be a senator and more …

7. Biden’s plan for vaccinations is already on pace

  • For as much as the incoming Biden administration proclaimed the previous administration was a disaster on the coronavirus, you would think that they would set goals that far outpace the criticized output for vaccine rollout, but this is not the case. Vaccine delivery is already on pace for 100 million vaccines in 100 days.
  • Despite this fact, which angered President Joe Biden, some in the Biden administration claim that the administration is starting their distribution program from scratch. Dr. Anthony Fauci denies this.

6. Just stop with impeachment

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  • As if the nation hasn’t suffered enough from phony and politically-motivated impeachments, freshman U.S. Representative  Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has already filed articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden over his interactions with Ukraine. This is going nowhere.
  • Greene said, “President Joe Biden is unfit to hold the office of the Presidency. His pattern of abuse of power as President Obama’s Vice President is lengthy and disturbing.” She cited Biden’s threat to withhold a loan to Ukraine unless a prosecutor who was investigating Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that employed Hunter Biden as part of the younger Biden’s scheme  “to siphon off cash from America’s greatest enemies Russia and China” using his dad as leverage, was fired.

5. Keystone Pipeline shutdown wipes out up to 11,000 jobs 

  • In a move that made American liberals and foreign governments very happy, President Joe Biden decided that the previously-approved Keystone Pipeline should be stopped mid-construction. 
  • Biden’s campaign slogan was “Build Back Better,” but the cancellation of the 1,700-mile pipeline stops 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast. This is a costly decision because it ends around 11,000 American jobs that would have generated $1.6 billion in wages.

4. Alabama Democrats hammer Mo Brooks

  • Coming off his controversial speech that took place six hours before the U.S. Capitol riots, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) has drawn fire from the Alabama Democratic Party and former U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith (D-Huntsville).
  • The Alabama Democratic Party is selling “No Mo Bullshit” merchandise to raise money from their email list, and Griffth recorded a YouTube video with 23 views, as of this writing, saying that Brooks should resign. He stated, “He chose to support domestic terrorism over the Constitution and has showed no remorse for his actions. Mo Brooks has become dangerous to democracy. He has disgraced and embarrassed the state of Alabama. Mo Brooks must face the consequences of his actions.  Congress must act now to expel him.”

3. Two-week pause after the beginning of the legislative session

  • The legislative session for the Alabama Legislature will begin on February 2, and now House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) has said that they will take a break after the first two weeks to assess the coronavirus pandemic situation and how it’s impacting work.
  • This will also be done to make sure that there isn’t an outbreak of cases, and it’ll be time to figure out which legislation needs to be prioritized. It appears that discussions surrounding re-upping economic incentives, coronavirus liability immunity for responsible businesses and gambling matters are all on the table, along with the normal business of passing operating budgets.

2. Biden: Take a mask with you to travel (like you already were)

  • President Joe Biden is planning to require people to wear masks when they travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. Thankfully, a vast majority of people are already doing this as airlines require it.
  • Biden is also looking to increase vaccine supply and testing for the coronavirus. The White House official directing the national response to the pandemic, Jeff Zients, said, “We need to ask average Americans to do their part.”

1. 15 more days to stop the spread for 6 more weeks

  • Governor Kay Ivey has announced that the statewide mask mandate will be in effect until at least March 5 at 5:00 p.m. There were no other major changes to the statewide emergency health order. Ivey said that the masks remain “the one step that we can all take in order to keep some balance in our daily lives, and stay healthy and safe.”
  • One change in the order was allowing more flexibility in recruiting poll workers for upcoming elections across the state. Although, in her statements, Ivey focused on the high number of hospitalizations the state has seen. She said that “of the 1,600 ICU beds in our state, 1,561 were occupied” last week.