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.

 

11 hours ago

Birmingham’s new Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema is ready for its premiere

The new, permanent home of Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival will open its doors this weekend, just in time for this year’s event.

Chloe Cook, executive director of the Sidewalk Film Festival, said the 11,500 square-foot facility is not complete, but is far enough along to be used as a festival venue this weekend.

“After the festival we will go dark for a week,” Cook said. “Then we will have a soft opening Labor Day weekend before our grand opening September 13-15. We’re very excited.”

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Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema a dream come true from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The cinema, located in the basement of the Pizitz building on 2nd Avenue North, features two 89-seat theaters and an education room for special events. Outside of the festival week, it will function very much like a typical movie theater, operating seven days a week on a year-round basis, screening the latest independent feature films on one of two screens.

“We’re excited to have something slightly larger than a jewel-box movie theater, but not a huge multiplex-type facility where we can carefully curate the programming for our community,” Cook said. “When I took the job in 2009 I did not imagine this would come to fruition. I really think a lot of redevelopment in the north side of downtown Birmingham has happened around our annual festival and it continued happening to the point that we felt like the timing was right to pursue this project and fill that cultural void.”

Cook said the $4.9 million facility would not have happened without the generous support of a variety of contributors.

“We have been so fortunate to receive generous support from our corporate community, including Alabama Power (Foundation)Regions BankBlue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, as well as our foundation community,” Cook said. “We’ve seen support from the Hugh Kaul Foundation, The Stephens Foundation, The Daniel Foundation, but we’ve also seen a lot of individuals who are not people who could start a foundation but they can send in a check for $250 or $25. That’s been really rewarding.”

To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema, visit MakeMovieMagic.com. To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Festival, visit SidewalkFest.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

SchoolFest sets the stage for Alabama children

The following is the latest installment of the Alabama Power Foundation’s annual report, highlighting the people and groups spreading good across Alabama with the foundation’s support.

 

Plato said art imitates life. Oscar Wilde said it was the other way around. It’s an argument that continues. However, one art form brings us face to face with the connection between art and life, perhaps better than any other: theater. It’s here people act out stories, hoping their audience forgets for a moment that it’s all make-believe. Were it not for the SchoolFest program of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF), many Alabama children might never be exposed to the magic of theater.

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Every year, 40,000 students attend SchoolFest in Montgomery. From the professional actors to the costume and set design, the productions are the same as those presented to other ASF audiences. Thanks to grants from the Alabama Power Foundation and others, ticket prices are discounted and many schools attend for free, exposing students from all walks of life to art.

For some, it’s an experience they’ll never forget. For others, like Emily Prim, it’s life-changing. Prim is assistant wardrobe supervisor at ASF. She remembers distinctly when the “theater bug” bit her. “I was in seventh grade at St. James School in Montgomery. We had a field trip to SchoolFest, where we saw ‘James and the Giant Peach.’ I remember it so well, because there was a Ferris wheel on stage that was the peach, and I thought that was so cool. I was sorta thinking about theater, because of shows we had done in school and stuff, but when I came to see ‘James’ here, it made me start thinking that this is something I could do after I graduate,” Prim said.

Prim’s experience is what ASF is all about. Executive Director Todd Schmidt put it this way: “It’s really a bedrock of our mission at ASF, which is to create communities through transformative theatrical experiences. It’s a lot of kids’ first introduction to theater. It’s important to do that, especially in this time of continued cuts in arts funding.”

Shakespeare Festival’s SchoolFest puts the arts at center stage for Alabama students from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Just in the past year, students have seen productions of “The Sound of Music,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Our Town,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963.” The latter featured 24 students from Montgomery Public Schools in the cast. Schmidt chooses shows that are appropriate for audiences of all ages. SchoolFest builds many of these productions around school curricula.

“We put our programming out to schools, and then they select what they think is relevant to what they’re doing and what they want their kids to be exposed to,” Schmidt said.

What started decades ago as productions appropriate for students has continued to expand. In addition to SchoolFest, ASF offers educational programs. There are theater classes for adults and children, and summer theater camps for students. ASF has hosted a series of conversations that are tied – at least in part – to the shows. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell spoke alongside a cast member from “Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963.”

“These are not about our productions, but they focus on themes of the productions,” Schmidt said. “There’s one coming up that talks about women dealing with glass ceilings, working in fields normally dominated by men, which ties somewhat into the production of ‘Steel Magnolias’ and a new production, ‘Into the Breeches.’”

Lonny Harrison, director of theater at St. James School in Montgomery, has been bringing students to see productions at ASF for 21 years. “We have some students who, up to the point they’ve hit SchoolFest, have never seen a live production outside of a school play. This definitely helps get them more into the arts.

It seems like kids respond differently to every show, but whether it’s something that’s the most amazing thing to them, or something that makes them think more critically, it at least makes them think about it. When we left ‘Romeo and Juliet’ the other day, kids were saying, ‘Let’s do some Shakespeare!’ I had to tell them, ‘Small steps.’”

Harrison has a long history with SchoolFest. He saw stage productions at ASF when he was in school. His experience echoes that of many Alabamians. Were you to poll the state, you’d likely be amazed at the number of people of all ages who’ve shared the marvel of live performance in a theater at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

In Alabama, it’s a generational thing. When it comes to the art imitating life vs. life imitating art question, perhaps Shakespeare got it right when, in the second act of “As You Like It,” the character Jaques said, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”

The parts being played by the men and women of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival are a rich and vital service to the people of our state. These are the people who transform our children, who show them a new and lively way to understand stories, and life – its comedies and tragedies. These are the “players” who expand the minds of our young people, and show them a world that lives within their own ability to imagine.

For more information on the Alabama Power Foundation and its annual report, visit here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

15 hours ago

Aderholt’s advice for Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate candidates: ‘Make it very clear that they’re supportive of the president’

Although it is still the early going of the 2020 U.S. Senate Republican primary election campaign, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) has some advice for the handful of candidates seeking the GOP nod.

When asked what he saw as important to him and his constituents in Alabama’s fourth congressional district, he said it was support for President Donald Trump.

In the 2016 presidential election, Trump dominated Aderholt’s district by winning more than 80% of the vote and was the only district in the country to break the 80% threshold.

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“They’ve clearly got to make sure that they make it very clear that they’re supportive of the president,” Aderholt said. “I mean, this president has as much support of any since I have been in office. I have never seen a president that has the support this president has. He has, everywhere I go, people are very optimistic that they are very positive about what he is doing. And they’re optimistic about the future. So I would first of all — they need to let their constituents, future constituents that are voters, know that they’re someone who would stand with the president.”

“As someone who is in another branch of government, we always want to make sure we don’t do just exactly like the executive or the president wants to do regardless of who it is,” he continued. “The Founding Fathers wanted the different branches to be a watchdog on each other. But, as I have seen from this president, the things that he is doing is consistent with what the voters want and what has been good for America. I’m fully supportive of this president. I think they need to communicate they’re supporting the president. I think that is probably the biggest thing right now. Alabama is a very pro-life state, and I think they need to communicate that, which again is consistent with the president’s message.”

Aderholt also suggested the Senate candidates should be supportive of Trump’s efforts to renegotiate NAFTA.

“I am also getting the feedback that the Mexican-Canadian trade agreement that the president is trying to negotiate — to redo NAFTA, people are very supportive of that,” Aderholt added. “But again, the president has been very supportive of these issues. What the president is doing, I’m very supportive of. I don’t see any issue as far as supporting what the president’s issue is.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

16 hours ago

Georgia-based Colonial sues contractor over Alabama spill

Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline Co. has sued an Alabama contractor over a spill that threatened gasoline supplies along the East Coast three years ago.

The pipeline operator contends faulty work by the Birmingham-based Ceco Pipeline Services caused a crack that spilled at least 250,000 gallons of gasoline in rural Shelby County in September 2016.

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The spill shut down a major pipeline for weeks, tightening gasoline supplies along the Eastern Seaboard.

The pipeline carries fuel from Houston to metropolitan New York.

With headquarters near Atlanta in Alpharetta, Colonial Pipeline filed the federal lawsuit Friday seeking an unspecified amount of money.

Ceco Pipeline Services has not filed a response in court, and general manager Luke Hotze declined comment Monday, citing the lawsuit.

Hired to replace coatings that protect the pipeline’s exterior, the contractor failed to adequately replace dirt around the pipeline after maintenance work, the suit said.

The failure left a void beneath the pipe, which bent as it sagged.

The bend caused cracks that led to the breach, according to the suit.

The failure cost Colonial Pipeline lost income, plus money spent on repairs and cleanup, the lawsuit said without specifying an amount.

The lawsuit said Colonial Pipeline transports an average of 100 million gallons (378 million liters) of refined petroleum products daily through a system that includes more than 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) of pipeline.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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17 hours ago

‘School choice’ also means ‘tax choice’ in Alabama

It’s back-to-school season and for some parents, this is a happy time.

But for those whose children are stuck in underperforming schools, or schools where they are bullied or are in danger, this is a heartbreaking time, especially if they cannot afford to move or go to private school.

“There was fighting every day. People wanted to shoot me, kill me, and everything,” said Calvin Coleman in a speech about his experiences at his Mobile public high school.

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Did you know that you, or your company, can help students like Calvin by donating a portion of what you already owe in state income taxes to a program that funds scholarships for low-income families in Alabama?

“When my son Carlos was in the fifth grade, he was constantly bullied and I wanted to desperately put him into a private school,” wrote Nyenya Webster of Montgomery in Alabama Daily News. Every day was a struggle, she added. “I was at a loss as to what to do to help my son.”

Then Webster learned about the tax-credit scholarship program created in 2013 by the Alabama Accountability Act that serves roughly 4,000 low-income, mostly minority Alabama students.

She applied, and Carlos received a scholarship to attend Success Unlimited Academy in Montgomery.

“Success Unlimited has been a lifesaver for my son,” Webster wrote. “He … is now considering college. My son never talked about going to college before Success.”

For those who want to help other Alabama families break the cycle of poverty through education, it’s a no-brainer.

“For a donor, it doesn’t cost them anything,” said Warren Callaway, executive director of Scholarships For Kids, one of the scholarship granting organizations funded by the program.

That’s because a tax credit is different from a charitable contribution. When you make a charitable contribution to a non-profit organization, you deduct a portion of that on your income tax. However, a tax credit allows you to take a dollar for dollar reduction in your state income tax.

“Basically, donors are redirecting some of their state income tax liability to a [scholarship granting organization],” Callaway said. “So, if you give $100 to us, you can reduce your state income tax by $100.”

Who benefits from the donation?

“The average household income for these students is under $30,000 so these are families that would have no other way of choosing the school that is best for their child,” said Ryan Cantrell, director of state strategy and political affairs for the American Federation for Children, during an interview of the 1819 podcast.

Higher-income families have always had school choice, Cantrell said, but “it’s the low-income families who get stuck with no options in under-performing schools or schools that don’t work for their child.”

There are $30 million in tax credits available and, so far, only about a third have been claimed, according to the Department of Revenue’s My Alabama Taxes website.

Here’s how you can reserve your tax credit before the December 31, 2019, deadline:

Step 1: Estimate how much income tax you or your business will owe Alabama next year by checking how much you paid last year. Individuals and corporations can donate up to 50 percent of their tax bill, and while individuals are limited to $50,000, corporations are unlimited.

Step 2: Visit the My Alabama Taxes website and follow instructions for reserving an Alabama Accountability Act tax credit.

Step 3: Send a check to one of the seven scholarship granting organizations in Alabama within 30 days.

Step 4: When you do your taxes next year, fill out an Alabama Department of Revenue Schedule AATC form to reduce your income tax bill by the amount you donated.

For more help, individuals may call the Alabama Department of Revenue at 334-353-0602 or 334-353-9770, and corporations may call 334-242-1200.

You’re already going to have to write a check for your state income taxes. Why not control where some of that money goes, especially when it has the power to change lives?

“It was a relief that nobody would understand,” said mother-of-five Alleane West in an Alabama Opportunity Scholarship video about the program’s impact on her family. “You know, you’re a single mom with boys trying to not make them a statistic.”

Watch:

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Connect with her at rachel@alabamapolicy.org or on Instagram @RachelBlackmonBryars.