My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
– John F. Kennedy
Summer is the season which Americans of all ages look forward to. A time to relax and unwind, it signals the end of the school year, and the beginning of vacations, barbecues, outdoor concerts, and celebrations of American independence on the Fourth of July. This summer, however, I was summoned to participate in an aspect of being an American that is dreaded by many: jury duty.
AMERICA: LAND OF THE FREE?
Until recent events in our history such as the killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and unfortunately many others, I, like many Americans, may not have really understood the freedoms I enjoy, or my personal responsibility for them. Even in these troubled times, it seems that most of as Americans may not realize our power to have a say in what defines America as a nation, simply by being on a jury and using the power each of us has on determining what the final verdict in trial is. We, as Americans, may take much for granted.
We, as Americans, may take much for granted.
I realized as I sat in the jury waiting room along with over 100 other potential jurors that I, here in my own local court of law, could now be faced with making the same heart-wrenching, soul-tearing verdict which other jurors across America have recently been faced with in these much-publicized cases: verdicts which seemed to go against what most of us believe we have seen, and in our hearts, believe to be just. What’s going on in America?
A TIME TO BUILD
In reflecting upon our trials, our triumphs, and the rights we’ve been granted, what do each of us really do to be American? Can we really say that our lives are devoted to defending the values our forefathers fought and died for? Are we doing all we can do with the gifts we’ve been blessed with, in order to create, uphold, and manifest ‘the land of the free’ for all Americans? Most importantly:
Has our nation lived up to and become all that it was created to be? If not, what can we all do?
To maintain the our freedoms, to revive the American Dream for all, and to honor the principles we stand for, it’s important that we:
- Revive our dreams. (2 Timothy 1:6-7) The popular song may say that “The
children are the future”, but the Baby Boomers are the wealthiest and best educated generation, and are still the largest demographic of Americans who describe themselves as Christians.. It’s also been shown that they have the strongest work ethic. The Boomers suffered a major blow with the recent recession, but by dusting off those old dreams and, by faith, getting back up again, this generation has the greatest potential to show that it’s also the mightiest (Job 42:10), and that it can set America back on track for its strongest era yet.
- Know our history (Matthew 5:14). Did you know that the original British colonists left Europe for America because of religious persecution? The North American colonies that eventually formed the United States of America were settled by men and women who refused to compromise their Christian beliefs. Their plan was to create God’s holy “city on a hill”, whose success would prove that God’s plan for his church could be successfully realized in the American wilderness. This was also the underlying framework of our constitution. So, in order to uphold that for which America was founded and to fully understand the inspiration of our founding fathers and promise and potential of America, know your bible. It’s part of our American history, too.
- Know our rights. (Deuteronomy 16:18-20). The Bill of Rights became part of the Constitution of the United States on December 15, 1791. In 1941, on the 150th anniversary of the event, President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed December 15 as Bill of Rights Day. He also articulated The Four Freedoms as an accessible version of the bill, to make Americans aware of their rights and to remind them of their duties as citizens of the United States. See the Four Freedoms here, and the Bill of Rights here.
What do each of us really do to be American?
- Hold our leaders accountable. (Psalm 94:20-23). Disturbed by the decisions of the courts,
or the behavior of Congress, lawmakers or big business? Yes, it is important to vote, but our ability to make change isn’t limited to Election Day. We must remember that we are not powerless, and the First Amendment explicitly provides for the right of the people to peaceably petition the Government for a “redress of grievances.” America is a nation created not by politicians, but ”By the people, for the people,” as Abraham Lincoln reminds us.
- Repent (2 Chronicles 7:14). The U.S. Constitution and the United Nation’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees freedom from oppression and repression for all human beings. Until America eliminates racism, and rights the wrongs suffered by Native and African Americans, it can never grow to be the land of freedom for all that it was created to be.
- Serve on a jury (Matthew 18:19, Acts 2:1). A judge recently told a story of an immigrant juror who shared with him that there was no jury duty in her country of origin. Where she came from, verdicts are handed down by whatever the country’s leaders decide, and the citizens, unfortunately, have no say at all. One person’s discernment in the jury room can indeed make a difference, and can change the course of someone’s life, if not history.
- Pray (Proverbs 21:1, Acts 4:31). Although there may be skeptics who attempt to cast doubt upon our spiritual origins, there’s no doubt that the strong Christian convictions of our founding fathers shaped the moral foundations of our nation and our constitution. As George Washington once said: “We are persuaded that good Christians will always be good citizens, and that where righteousness prevails among individuals the Nation will be great and happy. Thus while just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support”. The Lord’s Prayer asks that God’s Kingdom be manifest “on earth as it is in heaven.” Pray that our leaders follow God through Jesus Christ, and that we all remember to do His will.
It’s clear that, according to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the beliefs of our forefathers and leaders, America was created to manifest freedom, as “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”. These are the Biblical principles which set America apart from all other nations, and allow all races, religions, and cultures to coexist in equality and freedom (Luke 4:18).
As my name was called for a courtroom assignment, I prayed that this time, in this court, a change would come, and that it would start with me. It’s our turn as a generation to take the baton handed to us, continue the race of our forefathers, and, by faith, take America steadfastly into God’s vision and promise for its future.
SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES – 2 Timothy 1:6-7, Job 42:10, Matthew 5:14, 18:19; Deuteronomy 16:18-20, Psalm 94:20-23, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Proverbs 21:1, Acts 2:2, 4:31; Luke 4:18, Galatians 5:1, Isaiah 1:17, Psalm 89:14, Job 28:28, 42:10; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
 – “Star Spangled Banner”, by Francis Scott Key.
 – From “Greatest Love of All”, written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed.
 – Pew Research Center, “The Shifting Religious Identity of Demographic Groups” http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/chapter-4-the-shifting-religious-identity-of-demographic-groups/. Accessed July 12, 2016.
 -Matthew 5:14.
 – Library of Congress, “Religion and the Founding of the American Republic”.http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel01.html. Accessed July 12, 2016.
 – “From George Washington to the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in North America, 19 November 1789″; National Archives.gov. http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-04-02-0187. Accessed July 20,2016.
 – Francis Bellamy, “Pledge of Allegiance”.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Almost half of our founding fathers held seminary or bible college degrees.
- Over 80% of our Founding Fathers were practicing Christians.
- The rights to life, liberty and freedom as stated in our constitution are Christian principles. See John 10:10, John 8:31-32, Luke 4:18-19, Galatians 5:1, Romans 8:1-2.
Preamble of the US Constitution http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html
FDR’s Four Freedoms. http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/fdrs-four-freedoms-speech-freedom-fireside
United Nations International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights. http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx.
The Library of Congress is the home of the Congressional Research Service, the public policy arm of the US Congress. https://www.senate.gov/CRSReports/crs-publish.cfm?pid=%270E%2C*PL%5B%3A%230%20%20%0A
The White House – The all events at White House are fully viewable live and online for the first time in US history. See all events here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/
Photos: Top, Pete Souza; Boyscout, courtesy “In Our Own Image: Treasured African American Traditions, Journeys and Icons”; students, c/o Justice.gov, “AG Loretta Lynch’s Investiture Ceremony”, accessed July 20,2016.