July 4th: The First and Necessary Brexit
We celebrate with fireworks on Independence Day because on that date the first Brexit occurred; not the exit of Britain from the European Union but the exit of thirteen British American colonies from Great Britain. After intense debate, the unanimous vote of the States was “Leave” rather than “Remain”. While Americans never forget our birthday is July Fourth, 1776, do we remember what America’s exit from Britain meant to our Founders and why they believed it “necessary”?
The Continental Congress startled the world with their revolutionary Declaration of Independence. Its opening reveals that the exit from Britain was inescapable:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them….
Why was such a dramatic step as severing bonds with their British King necessary? The first of four references to God in the Declaration gives the answer: “…the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle” Americans to a “separate and equal station”. The Founders’ worldview asserted that a divine moral order governed “the Course of human events”. This moral order made the first Brexit both necessary and just.
The colonists’ grievances are listed at length in the Declaration. But for those grievances to make moral sense, the Founders measured them in light of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”. Their Brexit was necessary because of the radical inconsistency of the actions of the British King and his Parliament when assessed by their understanding of God and His world.
They boldly said “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.” They were exiting Britain because the Crown and its ministers had begun to take the colonists’ lives, and had long suppressed their liberty and squelched their quest for happiness.
The Signers appealed to God, not the British King, as the ultimate Judge of their intentions as they declared their independence:
We therefore… appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good people of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States; …
In taking this final step, they were keenly aware of the risks they were assuming. The British King was the super-power of Europe. His army and navy were the strongest on the planet. What hope of success could a fledgling nation have against a King whose wrath had been stirred to defend his honor and retain his possessions? The answer is found when the Founders’ declare the source from which their support would come. It would not be from the kings of “mankind”. It would come from the God of Creation who was their Judge. They believed their Brexit was necessary because of God’s justice. And so they believed that their independence was possible because of God’s provision:
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
For our Founders, Providence meant the intervention of God in the affairs of men. On this Independence Day, we must remember that if there is no transcendent God, government becomes the nation’s God. If God is removed from our government, schools and national life, how can we any longer be protected by “unalienable rights”? If rights come from the government, then the government can take them away. A government big enough to give you whatever you want is a government big enough to take away everything you have.
We remember and celebrate America’s Independence Day annually. But it is also essential to remember and celebrate what America’s necessary exit from Britain meant to our Founders, namely God’s transcendent rule above human government.
Let us once again, place our firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, and then mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. Anything less will spell something far more ominous for America than the horrors anticipated by the most outspoken opponents of the recent Brexit, namely, God’s exit from America.
Should that happen, our motto will no longer be “One Nation Under God”. Whatever it may become, Ronald Reagan’s prophecy will have come true: “If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” America’s Brexit was necessary. Remembering its genesis is also imperative for the success of our nation.