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Considerations for Independence Day in a Presidential Election Year

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Considerations for Independence Day in a Presidential Election Year

By Marcia Pally

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We celebrate it every year, but what does independence mean? We declared independence from Britain to be free from unjust burdens, for the liberty to do as each thinks best, but most of all to form "a more perfect union." What does this mean for us in a presidential election year?

The phrase is from our Constitution, but working towards common goals and future was our impulse long before 1789. Writing not only about church but about politics, John Winthrop held that the "condition of mankind," is "that every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit more nearly together in the Bonds of brotherly affection."

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Politics, the organization of power, interests, and resources, is based on the bonds "of brotherly affection," which constitute the sovereign group. "We must not look only on our own things, but also on the things of our brethren." Winthrop considered this our political covenant and basis for policies and institutions.

While people of many beliefs came to the colonies, the idea of political covenant was especially formative, influencing our national identity. Winthrop was building on a century of political theory--not eighteenth century liberalism but the sixteenth and seventeenth century federalist thought of Protestant Reformed thinkers building on the Judeo-Christian concept of covenant. The development of the "foedus" (covenant) into politics gives us the word "federalism" and our political foundations.

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Covenants protect interests; covenants protect relationship. The idea of the political foedus was that covenants bind together family, church, and guild, which in turn make up larger covenanted towns and regions, which comprise the covenantal nation.

As each person and group impacts others, each person and group is responsible for others.

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Professor Marcia Pally teaches at New York University and at Fordham University and is a regular guest professor at the Theology Faculty of Humboldt University, Berlin. Her most recent books are  Commonwealth and Covenant: (more...)
 

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Considerations for Independence Day in a Presidential Election Year