“The American Spirit”
 Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
July 5, 2009
All Rights Reserved


This morning we’re celebrating the American Spirit.

I’d like to begin by sharing a writing with you, penned in 1970 by David Graham.

“Hello, remember me? I'm your flag. Some folks call me Old Glory, others call me the Stars & Stripes, the Ensign, or just ... the flag. But whatever they call me, I am your flag. And, as I proudly state, The Flag of the United States of America.

Something has been bothering me lately. I was wondering if I might talk it over with you. It's about you & me.

I remember sometime ago (I think it was Memorial Day, or was it the 4th of July) when people lined up on both sides of the street to watch a parade. When your father saw me coming along, waving in the breeze, he took his hat off & held it against his left shoulder. His hand was directly over his heart. Remember? And you, I remember you! Standing there--straight as a soldier. You didn't have a hat on, but you gave the correct salute. They taught you in school to place your hand over your heart. Remember your little sister? Not to be outdone, she was saluting the same as you. I was proud, very proud, as I came down that street. Oh, yes, there were some servicemen there, standing at attention, giving the military salute. Ladies as well as men, civilians as well as military, paid me respect ... reverence.

Now, if I sound a bit conceited ... well ... I have a right to. I represent the finest country in the world--the United States of America. More than one aggressive nation has tried to haul me down, only to feel the fury of this freedom loving country. Many of you had to go overseas to defend me. A lot more blood has been shed since those patriotic parades of long ago & I've had a few stars added since you were a boy, but I'm still the same ole flag.

Dad is gone now & the hometown has a new look. The last time I came down your street, I noticed that some of the old landmarks had given way to a number of new buildings and homes. Yes sir, the old town sure has changed. I guess I have too, 'cause I don't feel as proud as I did back then.

I see youngsters running & shouting through the streets, college boys & girls disrupting our campuses, people selling hot dogs & beer while our National Anthem is played; everything from apathy to riots. They don't seem to know, or care, who I am. Not too long ago, I saw a man take his hat off when I came by, he look around, didn't see anybody else with theirs off... so he quickly put his back on.

Now, when I come down your street, you just stand there with your hands in your pockets. Occasionally, you give me a small glance & then look away. When I think of all the places I've been, Normandy, Gudalcanal; Iwo Jima; Battle of the Bulge; Korea, & Vietnam; I wonder, what's happened? I'm still the same ole flag.

How can I be expected to fly high & proud from buildings & homes when within them, there is no thought, love, or respect for me? Whatever happened to patriotism? Your patriotism? Have you forgotten what I stand for? Have you forgotten all the battlefields where men fought & died to keep this nation free?

When you salute me, you salute them. Take a look at the Memorial Honor Rolls sometime. Look at the names of those who never came back. Some of them were friends & relatives of yours, maybe even went to school with you. That's what you're saluting, not me.

Well, it won't be long before I come down your street again. So, when you see me next time, stand straight, & place your hand over your heart. Do this because I represent you. & You'll see me wave right back, my salute to you!”


On this 4th of July weekend, we turn to God & take a special opportunity to pray for America the Beautiful knowing that as in mind so in manifestation.

I invite you to close your eyes & reflect on the beauty of our great nation.  It is more than just spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountains majesty & fruited plains. The real beauty of America is in the God-given potential of its people. Every country has beautiful land but very few countries have so many citizens with the daring, drive, & determination of Americans. The courage of the men & women who founded our country & the selfless dedication of all those who have served this great country or given their lives to preserve & promote the ideal of freedom is woven into the fabric of the soul of America.

Because of those who have gone before, we have the freedom to become whatever we can see in mind. & their behavior has given us a shining example of what can happen when a people willingly work with God to bring God ideals into manifestation.  Let us use the power of our imagination to envision America as a land without violence; without domestic violence & child abuse, without animal or environmental abuse. Envision a land where drugs, gangs & crime are no longer a challenge. See our children playing outside & without fear of abduction & people of any age safe to walk in any neighborhood at night. See a time when the monies used to keep criminals in prisons is used to educate people with marketable life skills. 

Envision an America where the highest & best of all the people is manifest in prosperity & abundance.

"In God We Trust" has brought us as a nation this far but since there is no limit to God’s good, no limit to freedom let us pray that "In God We Trust” will continue to be the foundation upon which this great nation continues to evolve until each person values & expresses their freedom by taking responsibility for their own life choices & for the life & health of their communities by turning areas of decay into lush gardens, places of darkness into light, & undisciplined, ignorant minds into minds disciplined to learning & expressing knowledge in practical ways for the highest & best for all.
Let us envision that each American will come to realize that the final 4 letters of the word American spell "I CAN."  & that the dream of this free nation can & will be realized by people who are not afraid to say, "In God We Trust"; people who are not afraid to be patriotic & people who express their thankfulness for living in America by working hard for their own & for America’s continued success.

Inwardly let us know & remember that God is a God of unlimited possibilities & forward movement to a greater good.  There is always a better way, a better life & a better tomorrow for all of God’s children. 

Prayer by prayer, moment by moment, in every area, may we & all who love America & the ideals it stands for work with God & each other to fulfill the Divine Intention for America The Beautiful.  Amen

The American Spirit

The American Spirit isn’t something that just happened. Let me share some historical facts that may stun you: In September of 1776 most people were nearly bankrupt & jails bulged with debtors. Inflation was so out of control that James Madison owed his barber $1,020 for 1 haircut. Marylanders owed British creditors the staggering sum of 1.6 million pounds; this when the total federal income was $400,000.

In 1782 Congress had fled Philadelphia rather than be killed by the angry unpaid soldiers from the Revolution.  From October 1785 through the following April, a Congressional quorum showed up for only 3 days. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania had drafted the Articles of Confederation in 1776, right after the Continental Congress declared independence, but there was no national executive under the Articles. George Washington, the most likely candidate had retired to Mount Vernon.  In August 1786 he wrote these words: "I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation without having lodged somewhere a power which will pervade the whole Union."

The individual States didn’t respond to appeals from Congress for financial support. Congress asked for $8 million in 1782 to run the government & $2 million in 1783. When states responded with only $1.5 million each year, Congress asked for an amendment to the Articles to permit it to levy a 5% tax for 25 years to pay off the war debt.  An amendment required the approval of all 13 states, 4 said no.  Under the Articles, any major legislation required approval of 9 states.  So states opposed to anything could combine & exercise a veto by staying home until the legislation blew over.  This worked well because Congress couldn't pay their rent & moved from Philadelphia to Princeton to Annapolis to Trenton to New York. 

The Articles of Confederation also did not provide for common defense.  Most states had their own navy, army or both.  Without judges or a court system to appeal to, the quickest solution to most interstate squabbles was to tax the neighboring state with higher import & export taxes. States engaged in a vicious trade war against each other. The winners were states with major ports & established merchant marines such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island & New York. 

The losers were New Jersey, Connecticut & the Carolina’s who were highly taxed by those maritime states. New Jersey paid $40,000 pounds a year to send & receive goods through New York & Philadelphia. In retaliation, it charged New York 30 pounds a month rental on the lighthouse at Sandy Hook.  Maryland closed the Potomac to Virginians & Virginia retaliated by charging Maryland tolls at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.  A New Yorker said he wouldn't send his son to school in Connecticut lest he pick up "the low craft & cunning so incident to the people of that country.”  Note the word “country."

Recognizing the potential of a vast nation that already contained 3.5 million people, the British delighted at the infighting among what London called the "dis-united States."  English post-war strategy was to foster division & perhaps see the confederation split into 3 manageable (to London) nations divided by economics, interests, & geography into South, Middle, & North. Britain contemplated sending ambassadors to each state instead of one to the country as a whole. A letter sent to England from Boston could reach its destination faster than one mailed to from Boston to Charleston.  "Good roads," said one American, “Are like angels" visits:  few & far between. 

By 1787 many people thought it was the end of the 'great experiment' called the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. At a constitutional convention 81 yr. Old Benjamin Franklin said:  "I am convinced that scripture is right when it says in Psalms 127:1:  "Accept the lord.  Build the house.  They labor in vain that build it.'  Gentlemen, I have lived a long time.  I am convinced that God governs in the affairs of men.  If the sparrow can't fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?  I move, gentlemen, that prayer imploring the assistance of heaven be held every morning before we proceed with business."

Emmet Fox was one of our first Unity ministers. Worldwide people studying his teachings find freedom from bondage, fear, ill health, limitation & negativity. I want to share with you his vision of an intangible something called “The American Spirit.”

"The United States is not merely one more nation added to the list of nations.  It stands for certain special ideas and special principles, which have never been definitely expressed in concrete form in the world before.  These ideas may be summed up in the conception of personal freedom and unlimited opportunity.  What may be called the American Spirit is an intangible though very remarkable thing in itself, but as far as it can be put into words it has been expressed in the two great official documents of the American Republic, namely the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  These two documents are among the most remarkable ever written, and their effect upon the history of the world has probably never been surpassed.  They are both quite short, not more than a few thousand words in length, but every thoughtful person anywhere, and certainly every citizen of the United States, should make themselves acquainted with them. 

The Constitution contains no direct preaching at all.  It makes no direct statements about the nature of man, of his destiny, or of man's relations with other people or with God.  It is, seemingly just a dry legal document.  Never does it say in so many words that a man should be free, that human beings should live together in brotherhood, or that man is the child of God. All these things are expressed or implied in the Declaration of Independence; and the Declaration is, I suppose one of the most vivid and colorful documents that has ever been written.  It thrills with hope and faith and enthusiasm. 

The Constitution, on the other hand, is formal, technical, precise, and not, at first sight, of any interest to the layman.  Indeed, the Constitution and the Declaration might be described, in a sense, as the anatomy and physiology of government--the one concerned with the hard dry bones of the supporting skeleton, and the other the warm living organs and tissues of life. 
To understand the American Constitution one must realize that it aims at bringing about a definitely selected condition of things.  It aims at a special way of life--a way of life that up to the present has only been found in completeness in the United States.  It aims at personal freedom for the individual.  It aims at the idea of substantial equality, and above all, at equality of opportunityNo civilization had ever before aimed at that

It seems to me that a good way to sum up the fundamental difference in outlook between Europe and America is to say that when a new idea or a new method presents itself, Europe says, "WHY?" but America says "WHY NOT?" 

I think that most Americans & especially perhaps the younger generations tend to take this freedom of opportunity too much for granted. They are not just a matter of chance, they didn’t spring out of the ground overnight; or fall from heaven complete. In order to exist, this condition of life had to be produced by people who wanted it. The people of the generation, which produced it, the people of the Revolution, had to think it out. They had to work for it. They had to make sacrifices for it. They had to fight for it & in many cases they had to lay down their lives for it. It did not come easily. The inspiration was there, but as with every inspiration, it had to be brought out into practical expression; & that is always difficult. 

It is easy to copy an older thing with slight alterations, but very difficult to do something really new & better.  In this case the inspiration came to the leaders, to the Fathers of the Constitution; but they could have done nothing alone if the people had not responded & worked & fought, to make it secure. That generation did its work & passed it on. But 1 generation can’t do any work once & for all.  Each generation has to do it anew for itself--or it could lose it.  Just as this freedom had to be built up by those who wanted it, so it could be lost again by another generations’ carelessness or indifference. 

There is no guarantee that any nation is going to have rights & liberties for all time, unless it has the mentality, courage & understanding to claim them for all time.  One of the truest things ever said is that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” Unless we are just as determined as our forefathers to keep freedom, harmony & unity in the nation, we can lose them; just as any man can lose his prosperity, or his health, or his character, if he ceases to value these things & to work for them.  Freedom is a thing that must be won anew by each generation for itself. 

The finest Constitution & the greatest Declaration of Independence ever made are but phases until they are incorporated into the practical lives of living people.

So, unless you are seeking to embody the American Spirit in your own personal life & conduct, you are no true American, even though you may have authentic Mayflower ancestry.

If you allow yourself to judge the worth of a man by anything except his character, if you discriminate against him for any reason that is outside his own control, you are no true American. If you judge him by his parents, or his external conditions, instead of by himself, you are no true American. If you allow yourself to be hampered by any precedents or traditions, you are no true American. If you think that any kind of honest work can be degrading, you are no true American.  If you allow yourself to be dazzled by any exalted office or intimidated or hypnotized by pretentious titles of any kind, you are no true American.

The American Constitution would be unworkable unless the people were self-reliant, self-determined & resourceful. The Constitution calls for people who prefer to take care of themselves. It is intended for those who desire to manage their own lives & fend for themselves & be personally independent - & these very things are just a few of the outstanding characteristics of the majority of the American people."
Such in broad outline, Dr. Emmet Fox describes the spirit of the American Constitution and I for one, am proud to pay my personal tribute to the lofty vision and practical statesmanship America the Beautiful embodies.  And I pray this morning that the America I know and love is the America I leave to my children & grandchildren. I ask you all to do the same. 



What do you think?
Click here to share your thoughts about this lesson.

© Unity of Vancouver, 2004 All Rights Reserved.