Opinion: Doubling down on democracy, freedom in midst of war

This Editorial appeared in The Atlanta Constitution July 4, 1943.

It is peculiarly fitting that in this year, 1943, the Fourth of July, Independence Day, should fall on a Sunday. It is highly significant that our people, in vast majority, plan celebration of that day by rededication in the present fight for freedom and in the continuing struggle for a more perfect democracy. Such a rededication is fittingly a matter of the spirit, a renewed pledge to be made with all reverence on the Sabbath day.

The basic difference between the ideology of free men and that of all three of the Axis nations centers in their evaluation of man as an individual.

“(They) … look upon the individual as a unit of no consequence aside from his service to the state. Life or death for the individual is a matter of no moment in itself alone. It is only as that life or that death can contribute to the power of the state that it is worthy of consideration.

The free democracies. to the contrary, consider the free dignity of the individual man as the rock foundation of their being. With them, the individual is supreme. The state is only permitted to continue while it serves the free individuals who voluntarily unite to form a nation.

No man can claim, in honesty, that the world has yet witnessed a perfect democracy. All that man, with his own imperfections, has been able to do is to set up a goal of perfect democracy and, slowly and painfully, lift himself toward its realization.

The very principles of all free citizenship of democracy, are best set forth in the teachings of Jesus Christ, reported in the New Testament. For Christianity and democracy alike are based upon realization of the freedom and importance of the individual soul.

It should be, therefore, but acknowledgment of this kinship if churches, all over the land, devoted this Sunday, Fourth of July, to rededication, by all of us, to the cause of true democracy and freedom, a cause to which we as a nation, pledged ourself when the Declaration of Independence was signed. That immortal document, in the theory of government it expounds, is but the political expression of the same faith in man, the individual, which finds its religious definition in the Christianity of the New Testament.

There are two pledges which the sincere Christian should make, with prayer, today. He should pledge himself anew to the everlasting cause of democracy, to the bringing nearer of that perfect achievement of democracy we have made our goal.

He should, too, reiterate his dedication to the cause of victory in the war now raging. For, as never before in the history of mankind, this war arrays on either side the forces of freedom and of true Christianity against those hateful forces of militaristic might, that, if triumphant, would forever doom man to hideous slavery to the state.

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