By / Jul 2

This Sunday marks the 245th anniversary of Independence Day, a day celebrating America’s Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. Here are five facts you should know about our country’s founding document and the observance of its commemoration.

  1. Americans celebrate Independence Day on July 4. But July 4, 1776, was not the day the Continental Congress decided to declare independence (that occurred on July 2, 1776). Nor was it the day that the American Revolution began (that happened in April 1775), the day when the Declaration of Independence was delivered to Great Britain (that wasn’t until November 1776), or the date it was signed (Aug. 2, 1776). July 4 was merely the day when the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence.
  2. The first Independence Day was celebrated on July 8, 1776, the day the Declaration was first made public. Over the next two decades, though, few people celebrated Independence Day on that date. Celebrations became more common after the War of 1812 until about 1870, when Congress first declared July 4 to be a national holiday. The July 4 date stuck because printed copies of the Declaration began to circulate in the 1800s with the date of “July 4, 1776” listed at the top. 
  3. When it was approved on July 4, 1776, the Declaration did not include all 56 signatures, since most of the men were not present in the same room at the time. The official signing event took place on August 2, 1776, when 50 men signed the document. Several months passed before all 56 signatures were in place. The last man to sign, Thomas McKean, did so in January of 1777, seven months after the document was approved by Congress. Robert R. Livingston, one of the five original drafters, never signed it at all since he believed it was too soon to declare independence.
  4. The signed copy of the Declaration is the official, but not the original, document. The approved Declaration was printed on July 5, and a copy was attached to the “rough journal of the Continental Congress for July 4th.” These printed copies were signed only by John Hancock, the president of the Continental Congress, and Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Congress. Copies were distributed to state assemblies and conventions, and even to the commanding officers of the Continental troops. On July 19, Congress ordered that the Declaration be copied by hand with a new title, “the unanimous declaration of the thirteen united states of America,” and “that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress.”  
  5. While the U.S. Constitution makes no reference to God, the Declaration includes three such references: “their Creator,” “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” and “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” The document also makes two references that tie natural law to God. Although the primary author of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, was not a Christian, he had studied the work of Henry de Bracton, an English jurist and natural law proponent. Bracton has been referred to as the “father of common law” and is said to have “succeeded in formulating a truly Christian philosophy of law.”
By / Jul 3

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss Cooperative Program giving, the Mississippi State flag change, Coronavirus cases hitting a new threshold, Whataburger, and SCOTUS cases. Lindsay also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including a piece by Victor Vieth with “4 ways churches can respond to the spiritual impact of child abuse,” Jamaal Williams and Jim Tipton with “The importance of Christian friendships that defy expectations: Loving one another across generational and cultural differences,” and Alex Ward with a resource list to learn more about America’s founding. Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Katie McCoy for a conversation about life and ministry.

About Katie

Katie serves as Assistant Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies at Scarborough College. Katie graduated with a Bachelor of Music from Union University (TN) and with a Master of Divinity with a concentration in Women’s Studies from SWBTS. She graduated with a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology in May 2016. Katie has a passion for connecting global women’s issues with a biblical perspective on women’s value. Her dissertation is on Old Testament law about women, what they reveal about women’s dignity, and the Church’s social responsibility to women worldwide. As a teacher, Katie hopes to engage her students to think critically and to equip them to communicate biblical truth with grace and strength. She is a self-professed political news junkie and considers herself an adopted Texan. You can connect with her on  Twitter: @blondeorthodoxy.  

ERLC Content


  1. Cooperative Program giving highest in three months, down only 1.47% for year
  2. High court affirms religious access to state programs
  3. Mississippi State Flag Change
  4. Changing the state flag is not about forgetting Mississippi’s past. It’s about acknowledging it.
  5. Many Students Will Be in Classrooms Only Part of the Week This Fall
  6. Biden blows by Trump in cash race
  7. Fauci warns U.S. could see 100,000 new coronavirus cases per day
  8. U.S. daily coronavirus cases top 50,000 for first time
  9. Google Pushes Back U.S. Office Reopening Plan After Virus Surge
  10. Exclusive: Whataburger confirms expansion into Southeast, with eyes on Tennessee


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By / Jul 3

On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife to say that he thought July 2 would go down as the most “memorable epoch in the history of America.” This was the day that the Second Continental Congress had voted to accept a resolution declaring their independence from Great Britain. A committee was then selected, with Thomas Jefferson as the chief writer, to write what became the Declaration of Independence, which explained why the colonists made the decision that they did. This was approved on July 4, though many historians now agree that most of the signatories did not sign it until mid-August. 

Though John Adams was wrong about which day that Americans would celebrate, he was correct that the anniversary would be celebrated with “pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other . . .” Whether you choose to spend the day with bells, shows, or illuminations, below are some books and major works to read about the founding of America. 

Important documents from the Founding Era

Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States, and The Bill of Rights: As the founding documents of the United States, there is no better time to return to these documents than July 4. They serve as a charter for the American experiment in liberty, and also a reminder of just how imperfectly Americans have carried out the promise of equality, justice, and the securing of those inalienable rights. It is the work of each succeeding generation to reaffirm commitment to these ideals and pursue them for all men and women. 

“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” by Patrick Henry: I had never read this speech in its entirety before reading the biography of Henry mentioned below. And there is debate about whether Henry actually uttered the famous words since the first publication of the speech was not until much later. However, whether constructed or authentic, it is a picture of how later generations chose to remember Henry as a proponent of liberty. 

First Inaugural Address and Farewell Address by George Washington: Though these speeches occur several years after the revolution, they are reminders of just what Washington felt they had been fighting to create. The speeches from the beginning and end of his presidency are an excellent example of the kind of statesmanship that characterized Washington’s administration. And they have proved excellent templates for how modern Americans understand what it means for a leader to take up and pass the torch, as evidenced by the fact that this was the theme of the Hamilton song performed for President Obama at the end of his time in office. 


Adams by David McCullough: This biography of Adams, though lengthy, is excellent for the way that McCullough is able to provide a narrative of Adams’ life. Though Adams is significant for several reasons,my personal favorite portion of this biography is in his correspondence with his wife, Abigail (which McCullough quotes regularly) where you come to see the way that he thought of her as an equal partner. Adams’ role in the war, and the events both before (such as the defense of British soldiers after the Boston massacre) and afterward (he served as the first ambassador to the United Kingdom from the United States), provide a window into the world surrounding the American Revolution. 

Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots by Thomas Kidd: Henry is remembered for his speech in which he declared “Give me liberty or give me death!” This excellent biography provides a window into the life of a figure beyond a single speech. Kidd focuses on the way that his defense of liberty often brought him into conflict with the other Founders, especially his opposition to the U.S. Constitution. Though seemingly contradictory, it was his commitment to liberty (sometimes quotes aren’t so misleading after all), that proves to be the through line of his life. 

May We Meet in the Heavenly World: The Piety of Lemuel Haynes by Thabiti Anyabwile: A veteran of the American Revolution, Lemuel Haynes was the first African American man to ordained as a minister. Haynes would go on to be an anti-slavery activist and also argue that freed men and women should not be sent back to Africa, but rather should receive the same rights as others in the new country. Haynes is an early example that the declaration “all men are created equal” was not limited in its scope, even if the early country did not apply the truth equally.  

Religious histories

Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution by James Byrd: Not every person who chose to fight in the Revolutionary War was a George Washington or Alexander Hamilton. There were many for whom the cause of liberty was first received through a sermon than through a pamphlet. And there were many who preached against the Revolution. But both relied on the same scripture in their justification. Byrd’s study of the sermons of the period is an excellent look at just how people relied on faith to guide how they responded to the war and the struggle for (or against) independence.

God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution by Thomas Kidd: How was it that Congregationalist and Anglicans could cooperate with Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and even those who were formed more by Enlightenment philosophy than Christian orthodoxy in the founding of a new nation? That is the question that Thomas Kidd’s religious history of the American Revolution seeks to answer. At its core, the book is a picture of the way that Enlightenment philosophy and Christian faith (from across denominations) played a pivotal role in the founding of the country and the creation of its foundational documents.   

The Search for Christian America by Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch, and George Marsden: Was America founded as a Christian nation? For many, this question causes considerable concern and reason for endless debates about the religious faith of the Founders. These three evangelical historians examine the evidence and ask what is meant by the term “Christian America.” The narrative that emerges is one in which Christianity, especially Protestant Christianity, plays a crucial role. However, it is incorrect to say that America was founded as a Christian nation because of a number of reasons historically, theologically, and sociologically. 

Where the past meets the present

There is no shortage of ways that people in the present look back to the founding for an example of how to make sense of the present. Politicians across the spectrum appeal to the Founders, often the same founder for different purposes. Martin Luther King appealed to the founding documents when calling for justice and equality: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” Even the world of Broadway musical looks back to the story of an immigrant who created institutions that were critical to the founding of the country to speak to the present importance of immigrants in the story of America. However you choose to spend the anniversary of America’s founding, consider how you can help to ensure the continuance of the promise that all are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights.

By / Jul 1

My family always looks forward to the Fourth of July. I grew up on the east coast only a few hours from our nation’s capital. Many times when I was a child, my parents would take us to see family outside of Washington around the Fourth. To celebrate Independence Day, we would venture into the city to watch the massive fireworks show near the Capitol. And looking back, I can still remember the sense of awe and wonder I felt in those moments. To me, those songs and fireworks in that city on that day, that was America. 

But it is little wonder I grew up believing I lived in the greatest country in the world. My dad has always been an American history buff. And every time we visited the district, he made sure my siblings and I learned all we could. I remember being mesmerized by the city’s stunning monuments and memorials. And in addition to spending countless hours in the Smithsonians and other Washington museums, I also traveled many times to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s homeplace, and stood at the feet of the much-larger-than-life statue of the Great Emancipator in the heart of the city. There was so much to take in, and each visit left me overwhelmed. And as I grew, I fell in love with America’s story.

Learning to see differences

But something else happened as I grew up, too. 

I’m from a majority-minority city. Like many places in the South, my hometown is divided, not merely along figurative racial lines, but literally by railroad tracks. In our city, there was a white part and Black part of town. And the railroad tracks marked out the boundaries.

I went to public school. From elementary school, I had always kept a pretty diverse friend group. That became even more true by the time I made it to high school, when as a freshman I was the only white student in the drumline. Up until that point, I had never really paid much attention to race. I knew about slavery and a little bit about Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, but I mostly assumed that all of that was settled and behind us. Growing up, I knew that I was white and some of my friends were Black and others Hispanic, but I never recognized any real differences between us. 

By the time I made it to high school, I began to notice that some of my friends had a much different experience than me, which showed up in a lot of ways. Some of my closest friends lived in real poverty. Others lived in homes without a father. Many of them had encounters with police before they were old enough to drive. And those are just a few of the more obvious things.

Over the last several weeks, our country has been thrown headlong into tumult over racial injustice in America. By now, we all know and recognize the tragic events that brought us to this moment. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are but the most recent in a decade-long, high profile series of Black Americans losing their lives from clashes with police, or, in some cases, armed citizens. And it seems we’ve reached a tipping point.

A cultural tipping point

Each one of these deaths was a tragedy. But for years, each one has been litigated and debated in the court of public opinion. And rather than empathy and compassion, often the response has smacked of tribalism and self-protection. That was before we watched a young man named Ahmaud Arbery lose his life on video, due to some kind of deranged vigilantism. His death shocked the nation. And only a few weeks after the release of that video, the footage of George Floyd’s death began to circulate. Seeing George Floyd die under the weight of a uniformed police officer’s knee as he begged for mercy was simply too much for too many.

For years, Black Americans have been crying out about issues related to racism and injustice in America. Decade after decade, they’ve begged for a response to police brutality and for criminal justice reforms aimed at correcting a system that deals out unduly harsh punishments in cases where it is hardly warranted. And in the aftermath of these most recent fatal tragedies, we’ve seen crowds of thousands descend upon urban areas across the United States, in cities large and small, demanding justice.

Those cries have not fallen on deaf ears. In ways I never anticipated, we are watching not only individuals but institutions respond to these demands for change. And in the last several weeks, I’ve seen many white Christians take the opportunity to listen, to seek understanding they’ve never had before, and to ask what they might do to make a difference. Likewise, I’ve seen many of my Black brothers and sisters take the time to share, speak, and educate others about what it’s like to be Black in America today.

Not everyone, of course, has done this well. Unsurprisingly, some of the loudest voices (on both sides) have proved the most unhelpful. And some, in their zeal, have taken certain efforts or ideas too far. Others have used this moment as a cover for other kinds of subterfuge or wickedness. That is both regrettable and predictable. But to focus on those things is to miss the point. To perceive the best in what’s happening right now is to note both the church and our society making strides in order to see all people treated equally before the law, with the rights, dignity, and opportunities they deserve.

A more perfect Union

Christians in the United States are called to be good citizens (1 Pet. 2:13-17). And ideally, that means Christians will enjoy and have a deep affection for the nation to which they belong. I’m grateful to God to be an American. This country has been good to me and has afforded me incredible opportunities. But over the last several weeks it has become even more obvious that not only has America not always been good for everyone, but there are many people for whom it still isn’t.

And it’s okay to say so. 

Being a Christian means recognizing that our ultimate allegiance does not belong to any earthly nation, but to the kingdom of heaven (Phil. 3:20). That means we don’t have to mask America’s flaws. No earthly government will ever perfectly manifest the righteousness of heaven. And when our nation and its laws fall short of the ideal, we never have to pretend otherwise. Our nation is fallible; our Savior isn’t.

Being a Christian means recognizing that our ultimate allegiance does not belong to any earthly nation, but to the kingdom of heaven (Phil. 3:20).

One of the best ways Christians can celebrate our nation’s independence this year is by renewing our commitment to seek “a more perfect Union.” This Fourth of July, we not only remember the past, but look toward the future—a future free of racism and injustice, a future where all Americans are truly free and equal, and a future where one’s skin color isn’t regarded as a liability. And we not only look, but as Jesus taught us, we ask God even now to make the earth look more like heaven, and to use us to do so (Matt. 6:10).

And as we move forward, the words of Abraham Lincoln are as appropriate for this Independence Day as they were when he uttered them some 150 years ago in his Second Inaugural address, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.”