America’s 241st Birthday
by Lawrence Tyndall
A wiki, in the modern sense, is an accumulation of crowd sourced information. It is the generally accepted set of collected ideas that the community has agreed upon. You are probably familiar with Wikipedia, which is the world’s largest wiki. The most essential agreed upon community idea in Wikipedia is that accurate and detailed information should be available for free to the largest number of people possible.
At its most basic, a wiki is an idea. It is the idea that collective knowledge is better than exclusive knowledge. And when knowledge is about a specialized topic from an expert, the community’s acceptance of that expert’s ideas becomes the legitimizing factor.
America is also an idea. Like many great ideas and great accomplishments it was not imagined all at once, but from innumerable flashes of brilliance by varied people groups over long periods of time.
A group of Pilgrims in Scrooby, England joined together and decided that the state religion being practiced in England at that time was too far removed from the way they felt convicted to worship. They decided to move from Scrooby to Holland. Later, they had a better idea. They were willing to work hard and go to any length to provide a better future for their children. They set their sights on the most distant outpost of the new English colonies in America.
The Great Awakening was a series of revivals in the British colonies which lasted about 40 years. During that time, people refocused their lives and their minds on God. Upon viewing the liberty and the personal dignity granted to men and women by the God of the universe, people began to question the idea of an all powerful government making decisions for us all. They had a better idea, and it led to a revolution.
A group of programmers met in Philadelphia in 1776 (you know them as the Continental Congress) to announce a severance from the developers who initiated this expansion. They said it would no longer be business as usual: details to follow. It was our country’s I.P.O. (Initial Public Offering)
After an active period of disagreement (the American Revolution) these programmers reconvened a decade later to determine some rules by which the community would operate. They dug deep into the Bible. They dug deep into history books. They argued and ranted and compromised and sweated and labored. The constitution they came up with was the best balance they could strike between liberty and order.
One of the programmers who was interested in money management was Alexander Hamilton. He had many great ideas about how to pay for our experiment in democracy. He still has songs written about him.
If you visit Wikipedia enough you can be named as an administrator. They have the power to delete pages and make decisions based on the programmers’ rules. As a country, we call these people by various names. Senators, Governors, Congressmen. They get to administrate the whole thing. And at any given time, there is one chief administrator who presides over the whole experiment.
One of these programmers named Jefferson eventually became president. Jefferson himself wondered about the constitutionality of doubling the size of the United States with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory. But the man knew a bargain when he saw it. Consequently, we do not need a passport to visit Montana.
There have been hacking attempts. The War of 1812 comes to mind when the former CEO attempted a hostile takeover, but our technicians blocked these attempts until it wore down the will of the king and he went home. So in spite of forces attempting to pull us backward, America as an idea factory continued to progress.
A man named Lincoln believed so strongly in the idea of our country that he paid for it with his life. A man named Bell envisioned ways to improve the way we communicate. A man named Edison dreamed of new ways to see. They all contributed ideas to our collective goal.
Michael King was a minister. He visited Germany in 1934 and was so impressed by the person and legacy of Martin Luther, that he changed his name, and his son’s name as well. The newly named Martin Luther King’s son (they called him Junior) later saw that the time was ripe for a long standing idea to come to fruition. The civil rights legislation he promoted helped balance the American experience for all people.
One of the great features of a wiki is that the burden of work is shared by all who wish to improve it. No one individual had to take a piece of raw land and sculpt it into a functioning democracy of 330 million people. It is a collective effort that makes the pyramids of Egypt look like a weekend project.
And none of these people mentioned, nor any who followed them stood alone. We all stand on the shoulders of giants in order to see to the future. Sometimes these giants are individual men and women who were the pioneers in a particular field. But more often these giants are the accumulated pile of ideas that we have learned in school, that we learn from our families, and that we learn in our churches.
The goodness in America lies in the founding she experienced by Godly men who wanted this new country to be a shining example to the world. Even those who do not recognize the greatness of the men nor the holiness of the source of their ideas cannot help but respect the merits of the ideas themselves.
The brilliance of America lies in the ability and willingness to garner, encourage, and cultivate new ideas from any source then to incorporate these ideas into the fabric of our country. Some ideas weave themselves quite naturally into the matrix of our governance and strengthen us all. Some ideas are completely incompatible. But the expressing and the testing of these ideas is uniquely American. It is the way we find balance between opposing forces in our country.
In the eyes of America, there are no superior or inferior people, though some seek to rig the game in their favor. Race relations, economic disparity, citizens and immigrants, red state/blue state, country folks vs. city folks, law breakers and law abiders. Some attempt to find the fault lines in our culture to pit us against one another to their advantage. Others try to blur these same lines, also to their advantage.
There are forces at work now, as there have always been, that wish to change the United States from its original image. There are simultaneously ideas out there that seek to strengthen our country. May God always be welcome in our decision making process. May he always direct our thoughts and our imaginations to the good. And may we always stand rigidly against what is wrong and continually choose to foster what is right. Only in this way will our children inherit the opportunities of freedom that have been granted to us.