Dear Church,

Imprinted on our hearts from the time we are children are these words from the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. I will never forget the first time I went to Washington and was able to see the original Declaration, along with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the National Archives. Viewing the Founding Documents of our country was an emotional experience for me, and if you have been there, I know that it was for you as well.

Next week, our country will celebrate Independence Day. It is one of my favorite days of the year. In part, because we gather with friends and family to grill out and enjoy life. I also run the Peachtree Roadrace in Atlanta every year with my mom and 50,000 other people from across America. But that isn’t why I love this day. No, I love July 4th because it is the one day every year when our country celebrates the idea and ideals of the United States of America. There are days where we celebrate our military, labor force, Presidents, and a variety of other things, but this day is something completely different and unique. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Think about that for a moment, we are a unique experiment in the world. In our country, your worth is not to be found through your ethnicity, race, gender, class, education, or frankly, anything else. In the United States of America, we believe that all people are created equal. Built into the moral fabric of our country is respect for other human beings, because they, like us, are endowed by their Creator with Rights! These are remarkable ideas, and while we have work to do in making them a reality, I am proud to live in a country that embraces such a beautiful concept. In our current age of division and angry rhetoric, it would be good to pause for a moment and remember those inspired words written on July 4, 1776.

As a Baptist pastor, I firmly believe in the separation of Church and State. Both are better when they operate autonomously. But I also believe it is right to give thanks to God for our country. I hope you will join us on Sunday as we celebrate the founding of the United States, but more importantly, as we worship Jesus Christ.

Grace and Peace,