Dr. Swisher, Is July 4th a Secular or Christian Celebration?  Michael, Wauseon, Ohio

Hello Michael.  Thank you for this question which I think is fundamental to who we are as a culture. The Fourth of July also known as Independence Day has been a Federal Holiday in the United States since 1941 but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th Century and the American Revolution. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the document drafted by Thomas Jefferson with the aid of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Richard Henry Lee. Both Mr. Adams who served as our Second President  and Mr. Jefferson who served as our third President died on July 4, 1826, fifty years to the day of their signing the Declaration. Just prior to his passing President Adams wrote, “This day will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the Great Anniversary Festival and that occasion should include; pomp and parade, games, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this Continent to the other.”

To specifically answer your question Michael, I do believe that July 4 most definitely has religious significance. But don’t just take my word for that let’s inquire how our ancestors felt about it. General George Washington in announcing the Declaration of Independence to the troops on July 9 stated, “The General hopes and trusts that every officer and soldier will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian, defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of this Country... knowing now that the peace and safety of all depends on solely on God.” Mr. Franklin put it this way, “Here is my creed.  I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe, that He governs it by His Providence and that He ought to be worshiped.” The President of our Continental Congress, Mr. John Hancock one of our bravest founders, who signed his name the largest and most bold of any of his contemporaries said this, “May all bow to the Lord Jesus Christ so that the whole earth may be filled with His glory.”

Perhaps one of the best quotes came on July 4, 1946 when 29 year old Congressional Candidate John Fitzgerald Kennedy said “The informing spirit of the American character has always been a deep religious sense. Throughout the years down to this present time, a devotion to Christian principles has characterized American thought and action.”  Fifteen years later during his Inaugural address President Kennedy proclaimed, “The same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebearers fought are still at issues around the globe. This belief that the rights of all come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

So amid the fireworks, hot dogs, lemonade, popcorn and strawberry pie let’s all pause for a moment to thank God and our intrepid ancestors for the Nation that we have inherited. May we also find renewed inspiration to do our part to keep the United States the ultimate model of Freedom and Democracy for the World. May God Bless each of our readers and May God continue to Bless America.