For nearly 250 years, Americans have celebrated this time of year the one things that binds us as a country of diversity – our declaration as a free nation on July 4, 1776. This year we'll march in parades, light the fireworks, and wave the flags remembering and celebrating. We have much to remember and celebrate. We have much for which to be grateful. We have much to love about this place, its history, and its future.
Yet today as I write this, families in Charleston, South Carolina grieve in sorrow, anger, and confusion. They do not feel the joy of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They do not share my optimism for our future nor an untainted appreciation of the past. They will watch fireworks in the same sky I will. But I wonder if their belief in the promises those pyrotechnics imply will be as worry free.
That I can celebrate my freedom when others cannot makes me more intensely grateful for that freedom. But it should also make me more determined to ensure that everyone under the umbrella of those promises has the same opportunity.
Many, many people have defended the greatness of our nation and the wideness of its opportunities in the last several months. Rightfully so. Many also have lined up the names of the places where people feel less than free: Ferguson, Baltimore, Staten Island, McKinney, etc. and blamed their inhabitants for not seeking their own opportunity. Pertinent to me and to this blog site – many Christians have done this.
We have heard the anguished cries of our fellow citizens and performed political and theological gymnastics in order to ignore that they do not feel equal and free. Everyone who has thought about it at all has thrown blame somewhere. But you know what? I don't really care who is at fault anymore. Because I know who is at fault if I know, if I see, if I hear, and if I do nothing.
I believe with all my heart that we do, in fact, have a great country here, built on a grand, unprecedented experiment of freedom no one had ever tried. But I also believe it's time to prove that greatness.
If America is the great country my father fought for and my uncle died for, let her prove it now by telling the world we will not allow these things to happen in a great country.
- We will not pretend so many people in so many places are merely aberrations and not a pattern of injustice.
- We will not look the other way when people entrusted to do right do wrong instead.
- We will not allow categories of any kind to legitimize terrible treatment of any people group, whether it be by color or occupation.
- We will not allow any of our citizens, or human beings within our borders, to fear going about their daily life because of their skin color, gender, or language.
- We will take seriously our promise that all people are endowed with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Our founders backed up those words with their lives, liberties, and possessions. We spend our time arguing over who deserves those rights and why we're not responsible for their remission. I suspect our founders would appreciate our self-sacrifice more than our speeches and fireworks. While we're celebrating and remembering, let's pause to consider how to be what they thought we could be.
While we're, I hope, thanking God for placing us here, in a country where we can freely be Christians, let's ask God why He put us here. I'm pretty sure it wasn't just because He thought I was so darned worthy of it all. (Quite, quite sure.) I think to whom much has been given, much is required (Luke 12.48). Independence Day is a day to remember how much we've been given – and to pledge ourselves to freely giving it until all are free.