It was the 1950s, and Money Jewell, as we called our grandma, had been hospitalized. My mother said that in those days, the sick were often transported home by ambulance to continue to heal after their hospital stay. My grandma happened to be discharged on Election Day and on her way home insisted that the ambulance take her by the polls to vote. Money Jewell saw it as part of her Christian duty to be involved in the election process. As my mother shared my grandmother's story, she expounded on the fact that many brave men have died to grant us the privilege to live free, and it's a blessing to be able to participate in the decisions about who will govern and what laws will be made.
My mother was careful to explain that evil seeks to deny both our political freedom on earth and the spiritual freedom we attain through Christ. Even as a child, I understood that the freedoms afforded me by my country were mine to both appreciate and protect.
Explaining the connection
Conversations with my mother gave me an appreciation for the Christian concepts found in American history and a strong desire to practice my civic responsibilities. I've since found that taking the time to share personal stories and explain the biblical connection to freedom has worked to inspire my own children.
In 1831, President John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson: "The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity." Because our rich Christian history has been all but expunged from public-school textbooks, it's critical that we explain to our children that the liberty we enjoy is a Christian principle. We are blessed to live in a country that exists to protect our freedoms.
Where to start
July Fourth offers the perfect opportunity to introduce children to the Judeo-Christian principles on which our country was established, and I have found that reading the Declaration of Independence with my family is a great place to start. Print out a transcript of the Declaration at archives.gov. Ask your children to circle the references to God and Christian principles; then talk about each sentence together.
Another great point of discussion for my family has centered on the Christian influence found in so much of our rich American history. Great resources can be found at wallbuilders.com, outlining everything from the Scriptures and prayers engraved on national monuments to the prayers and favorite Bible verses of our nation's presidents.
My family is blessed to live in the Northeast, where road trips can easily include a scavenger hunt to find signs of our Christian heritage. If you can't visit monuments or government buildings in person, consider an "online scavenger hunt" where family members can race to see who finds the most Scripture references by researching American history online. If your children are too young to browse the Web, another option is watching Drive Thru History America. This DVD set is designed for children ages 8-14 and includes humor, inspiring real-life stories and fantastic footage.
Equipping our kids to appreciate their freedoms may at times seem like a wearisome task. That's when the words of President Ronald Reagan inspire me to teach my children to value their duty and right to be heard. Reagan declared: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same."
My mom inspired me to want to be a champion of freedom. Just as I grew to have an enthusiasm for participating in our society because my mother's joy and excitement was infectious, I believe that my children will grow to be enthusiastic citizens. They will realize that because our nation was built on Judeo-Christian principles, it's easy to be good citizens — both as Christians and as Americans.
Learn more about Christian faith in American history.
Rebecca Hagelin is the executive vice president of MPower Media and the author of 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family. This article first appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was originally titled "Champions of Freedom." Copyright © 2010 by Rebecca Hagelin. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.
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