John Knox, the Revolutionary War, D-Day, and Duck Dynasty – Summer Musings on Freedom

In these United States, we have just celebrated Memorial Day, D-Day is just around the corner, and summer is here. So, it’s time for a few musings on history, freedom, culture, and the need to remember:

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In 1780, the American Revolutionary War spread to the south. On June 4, 1780, William Martin stirred Patriots to fight the British with his sermon against the “tender mercies of Great Britain” in the Reformed Presbyterian Church at Rocky Creek, South Carolina. Later in the week, Cornwallis’ men burned the church building in retaliation. My uncle, John Faris, was captured while fighting the British that same week. Condemned to be hanged, he escaped a log jail the night before his scheduled execution. He died later in the summer from wounds sustained at the Battle of Hanging Rock. His only child was soon born and quickly died. Having no direct descendants himself, it is incumbent upon his nieces and nephews to remember his sacrifice. Remember to tell your family and friends these kinds of stories. If you don’t know any, learn one, and learn to tell it well, so that we do not forget. You can read such stories here and here.

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Our neighbor, Harvey, just passed away. He is the last survivor of D-Day that I have known, I think. To hear him tell of the men who died in his arms that day still sends chills up my spine. May we never forget what he and others did almost sixty-nine years ago this week.

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Most of the world sees camping as a symbol of primitive regress – moving back into tents after building a house. Americans see camping as a symbol of pioneering progress – remembering that we are called to tame the wild frontier. God called Israel to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles each year by living in tents to remember his salvation and the blessing of the Promised Land. Culturally, we need to remember that the first world, imperfect as it is, has not always been the first world. Whether you go camping or not, be sure to sit around a fire pit this summer and tell your kids about those who have pioneered before us, and inspire them to press on in taking dominion of God’s creation as we follow the Pioneer and Perfecter of our salvation.

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The Scots-Irish in the back country of the original American colonies helped stir the revolution. They had been oppressed by the English crown in the lowlands of Scotland before moving to Ulster. They were known, according to historian John Buchannan, as “belligerent, loyal, bigoted, valiant, crude, and tough.” One Provincial Secretary in Pennsylvania wrote: “A settlement of five families from the North of Ireland gives me more trouble than fifty of any other people.” They were useful in fighting for freedom. But, in the decades that followed the war, their own leaders, including some in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, saw that if they were to influence the nation, they would need to be cultured. They deliberately taught their children the proper use of the English language, academic discipline, social manners, appropriate dress, and generally sought to leave their hillbilly ways behind. Within a generation, they were a force in American culture. One moral of the story? If social conservatives today want to have lasting influence, they probably need to turn off Duck Dynasty and read some classics.

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There is a lot of concern regarding the increase of tyranny in our nation today, and with good reason. It’s a good time to remember that John Knox stood before tyranny as he stood before Mary Queen of Scots in the early 1560s. She trembled, and he won. She was vanquished not merely because of his boldness in her presence with God’s word, but also because the nation was being changed one person at a time through the preaching and witness of the gospel. Individuals were turning from the tyranny of sin in their lives, saying no to sin and yes to Jesus as they took God’s word to heart. Nothing has changed. If we would tremble before God’s word, tyranny would tremble before us.

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