On this eve of the 4th, as I painfully try and stay engaged in the world of policy and politics, I offer some thoughts on where I’m at when it comes to celebrating our Country. I say “painfully engaged” because I do lament the disrespect and lack of decorum I see on all sides of our national and local politics. Nevertheless, I am truly grateful for the United States of America and count my citizenship as one of the greatest blessings and responsibilities I have. When I traveled to Ethiopia with Gemechis Buba, a Lutheran pastor and immigrant from Ethiopia, I will never forget how much he cherished and appreciated his U.S. passport. His gratitude gave me a much greater appreciation for mine. I offer these short thoughts on celebrating the birth of our Country, in hopes they help your celebration or at least prove thought provoking.
I am patriotic and proud of our country not because of what our country is doing or not doing at any particular time or because of the current Administration-whoever it might be. My celebration is about the brilliant checks and balances woven into the Constitution and the freedoms in the Bill of Rights. My celebrating is about the courage and sacrifice of so many to preserve and protect the freedoms we enjoy including religious freedom. I celebrate because I believe the principals of our Republic are the best human beings have come up with so far and are a blessing from God.
To quote “America the Beautiful,” my celebrating rests in our Country’s ability have our “gold refined” and look to God to “mend our every flaw.” This refining and mending is an ongoing process, always with some forward progress and some backwards movement (depending on one’s perspective of course). I lament all the tragic aspects of our history, in particular the legacy of slavery and toll the creation of the United State took on Native Americans as well as other groups of people. I could go on to more current practices but again, I celebrate because there is a process, all-be-it an arduous one, of refinement where injustices can be addressed. As MLK proclaimed in 1963 on the Mall of our Nation’s Capital, “I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream, that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed—we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” I celebrate this creed on the 4th of July and our responsibility to live up to it in every generation.
God bless America? Absolutely, and every other country in the world too but I do pray God blesses America with a will to seek liberty and justice for all. America the Beautiful? Absolutely, but beauty does not mean we are flawless or do not have an ugly side. My celebrating, and I hope yours too, is always a blend of reverence with an honest assessment of “things done and undone.” I pray our celebration will remind us that our Republic and Democracy rests in the hands of each one of us. So this Sunday, in honor of the 4th, we will sing America the Beautiful and be reminded that as Christians we are called to stay engaged and be good citizens. Singing this song will not be an endorsement of everything our Country has done or is doing – it will be a prayer for God’s guidance and continued refining work.