July 4th – Independence Day: A Day to Weep, Mourn, and Fast

Separation Independence Day
Independence Day is our country’s oldest holiday. On that day, in 1776, Congress passed the Declaration making the United State’s separation with Great Britain legal effecting our autonomy from the Crown.

Today, the holiday is marked with steamy weather, fireworks, political speeches, cook-outs, sparklers, and a wide array of red, white, and blue products signifying to all: its owner is a patriotic lover of the US of A. Usually, if the pyrotechnics crew is on their A-game, dubbing patriotic music through loud speakers while sending mortars into the night sky in bright colors may produce goose bumps and even tears of nationalistic joy for one’s country.

The church in America, being heavily influenced by the civic-religious culture, signifies this holiday as a truly holy day. Often, “patriotic hymns” are sung while the flag stands tall, next to, or in front of the cross of Christ. Perhaps veterans will wear their dress blues to church, identifying the service they gave to God and Country to fight the country’s enemies near and far and to uphold American values and our way of life: capitalism, free-enterprise, orgiastic levels of consumerism, anti-communism, anti-socialism, oil, individualistic autonomy, and automobile culture.

Odd that we don’t question these man-made deities; we roll them right into our church life and culture. Instead of objecting, or even resisting, oppressive nationalistic structures which kill, destroy, exploit, rape, usurp, and otherwise coercively manipulate nations of people for narcissistic gains (aka parts of US foreign and economic policy), the church in many American communities has largely ignored or out rightly supported these practices.

Related: This July 4th Let’s Celebrate Inter-dependence Day! by Shane Claiborne

A question I ask: is it still Christianity when we blatantly ignore the teachings of Christ? Are we still following the Crucified One by killing our enemies, directly or indirectly, and exporting weapons of mass destruction: arms and capitalism, for example? I honestly do not understand how and why any church who has ever read the words of Christ, could then produce the thought, “Yes, we are definitely a Christian nation.” But it happens everywhere in the US, and we propagate it without a peep.

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Perhaps, instead of celebration and alliance, we should mourn and fast and lament our complicity of such things. On this Independence Day we, the church, should remember the slaughtered innocents of lost nations. We should weep and wail for the dreams and lives of children, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters destroyed beneath the thundering hoof beats of westward expansion. Instead of being evangelists of capitalism, we should expose this economic system for what it is: completely based on envy, greed, sloth, pride, lust, and gluttony – and the continued increase of such things, and then seek to live in more simple and less harmful ways. We should offer our prophetic voices, not in votes that underwrite the kingdom of the world but in creative and healing ways outside the reach and scope of power-over legislation. On this day, we, the church, should reaffirm our allegiance and citizenship to Christ and His Kingdom and renounce nationalistic, economic, ethnic, and political divisions, for these are the ways and means of the principalities and powers among us. We should seek to wear the scars of non-violent, self-sacrificial love and not let yet another holiday pass without a peep from those who claim Christ at Teacher, Lord, Master, and Friend.

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John Mitchell is an Adult Educator helping men and women recovering from addiction and homelessness. He lives with his wife and children in St. Paul, MN.

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About the Author

John Mitchell

John MitchellJohn Mitchell is an Adult Educator helping men and women recovering from addiction and homelessness. He lives with his wife and children in St. Paul, MN.View all posts by John Mitchell →

  • Drew

    Another liberal that violently hates America. Seriously, if you hate America this much, why not think about leaving? You can pick any day you want to weep and mourn for folks; why do you have to pervert a holiday that is supposed to be a joyous day? Are not Christians allowed to have joyous days?

    Count me as a Christian first, American second, that is tired of all the far-left radical liberal hate America posts on RLC on 4th of July and Memorial Day.

    • Digger

      Amen. I’m glad you called it what it is: hatred.

      • Drew

        If Mitchell wants to have a day where he gathers with Occupiers, Communists, Socialists, Anarchists, and other anti-American factions within the United States to talk about everything bad that America has ever done, that is fine, but why do that on July 4th? Pick another day to hate America.

  • bluecenterlight

    Nationalism and flag worship the church has engaged in does disturb me. I don’t think the proper response is to spit on it either. If our country has brought destruction then it is our response to bring healing. I don’t think rhetoric accomplishes this. We have had too much division, how about a little more what can we do to bring healing instead of we suck.

    • Daniel Olson

      I agree. Unfortunately this seems to be the other side of speaking the truth without love. We so easily seem to find fault with each other. We are critical without providing remedy. Thanks for the reminder that we need to bring the healing touch

  • Digger

    Interesting that the author claims that independence day is unchristian, and judges everyone who celebrates it.
    The fact is that not one shot was fired nor one life lost in winning our freedom. Freedom was won with the bold stroke of a pen. The fighting took place to keep the freedom.
    Rather than being so negative, I suggest thanking God for the freedom He allows us. You don’t think the war was worth it? Fine, don’t thank God for the men who died for our freedom. I’ll do that for you. At least thank him for John Hancock’s ink.
    But if you want to wail and lament your imaginary guilt, you are free to do so. Thank God.

    • Ron

      Amen brother. The words of this this author are an embarrassment to our country and the people who continue to fight for freedom. You only have to look at the news from Egypt this morning to understand just how important that is. This is a nation under God, as imperfect as we are. I am celebrating.

    • http://empiricaldissent.com/ Jordan C Bowser

      Whatever you do, don’t read A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. It will ruin your pleasant fantasies.

    • nkcwu

      I do not think the author meant celebrating Independence Day, and by extent any remote love of American statehood and America in general, meant being unChristian, or communist, or whatever charged labels one might be inclined to use. I think he meant to ask whether we really look into ourselves and ask what, and why, we celebrate certain things, and whether the things we love (besides one’s country, one’s mentality of life, money, marriage, etc.) reach proportions of idolatry.

      I think the author is right in labelling things like automobile culture and capitalism, consuermism, etc. as man-made dieties. They are after all values Americans either hold, or are taught to hold. These value may not be personal idols to some Americans, but they certainly are institutionally indoctrinated among the entire nation. Are many Americans proud of how their capitalism has made them wealthy and powerful, that without it they would not have achieved such levels of prosperity and would fight whatever gets in their way to maintain it? That does sorta sound like idolatry to me.

      I find the criticisms in the comments rather unsettling: as Franz von Papen once said when opposing Hitler and his regime, “only the weak can’t (and don’t) suffer criticisms”, which was a direct reference to the regime’s use of the media in suppressing contrary opinions of the Nazi’s ideologies. The Nazis use the natural ad hominems of portraying this speech as unpatriotic and dangerous to German society. But what von Papen said did struck a chord to me: if we are so uncomfortable with people complaining about what we have or doing, perhaps it is better to re-examine ourselves and our motives than tryng to fight it as a knee-jerk reaction.

      Which begs the question: does trying to remind Americans that the USA’s history has actually done terrible things in the past, and that some of the luxuries and freedoms are in fact ill-gotten gains, really a terrible thing to do? Because frankly it’s just as delusional to think that no American businessman has never made some shady means to accrue profit, and that the sole reason for America’s prosperity is because they did everything right without compromise of greater, higher values.

      The prophet Nathan did the same thing to David, who of all figures in the Bible are viewed quite positively. especially by means of a military man (see what I did there? ^^). Just because America has so many great qualities to it, does not somehow negate or overcome its flaws. As great as he was, David still sinned, and his ill-gotten gains was a married woman. But David did not go on a guilt trip either, nor did he defend what he did by labelling Nathan as a troublemaker. David repented, and not superficially either.
      Which brings to what I think is the author’s second point: what are we meant to do with the freedoms we are blessed? Do we use our gifts to bless others, or hoard it to ourselves? Do we look in towards ourselves and try to see how we are influenced (or worse, controlled) by the great things we have, American or not? Are we more like the reformed taxman that, having accumulated vast amount of stolen revenue, spends it away to others as demonstration of his repentance, or the Pharisee that sees his possessions as his own rightful gains and, as expected, becomes tightfisted?

      Our attitudes towards what we have are powerful influences. Remember, it was ironically the most religious of the religious people that received the most criticism from Jesus.
      Lastly on the point of freedom, the most important thing about freedom is what we do with it. Gifted people are expected by God to use those gifts to bless the world, not merely to yourself. If you want an early historical example just read the Hebrew of the Old Testament. They were Chosen by God to be a light to the world, and farnkl most of the OT is about they more often failed in doing that, because they pursued other gods, because they wanted fertile lands, they followed the influences of other nations. While they prided themselves as different from everyone else, the reality is that their hearts are no better than the people they are meant to reach out. And frankly many modern Christians (yes, Americans too) fail similarly.

      No I do not mean to say that unless you throw it all away to charity and live on the street you’re a terrible greedy person worth only to the deepest confines of Hell, but look at the end of the Rich Young Man’s story: he walks away saddened, because he realized that what he really desired wasn’t following God’s word and living righteously, but the things that you get as a result of doing these things, his wealth. The end goal for his righteous living was a comfortable living. He valued righteous living and obedience to the law because that’s what it took to be wealthy. If he really valued such things then being moneyless, at least for a while, is a small price to pay.

      Are you as a reader (presumably some are American) willing to do the same? It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be living on the street either. It is active demonstration of obedience to God and living out his teaching.

  • Michelle Langley

    I honestly do not understand how and why any church who has ever read the words of Christ, could then produce the thought, “Yes, we are definitely a Christian nation.”

    Amen, brother. Thank you for writing this article. Much love.

    • http://empiricaldissent.com/ Jordan C Bowser

      The secret is that they never read the words of Yeshua. They read some of Paul, some of the Hebraic law and history, and they listen to their pastors. But it’s obvious that their grossly unfamiliar with the teachings of that vagabond rabbi, Yeshua.

  • otrotierra

    Thank you John Mitchell and RedLetterChristians for putting Jesus before Caesar without apology, no matter how offensive it evidently is to do so.

    • Digger

      I hope you don’t celebrate anniversaries, or birthdays, or victories by your favorite sports teams, or anything else other than Jesus Christ.
      You see, I can celebrate our Nation’s birth without putting the United States before Jesus. I am capable of celebrating more than one thing.
      But YOU, who implied that anyone who celebrates Independence Day is placing country before God is failing to live by Jesus’s standard, should strongly reconsider your position; which is evidently AGAINST me.

      • Daniel Olson

        Wow Digger… that was way evil. Your assumptions and accusations came from the father of lies.

        • Digger

          Yes, and the other guy’s assumptions that I (and all other conservative Christians) place country before God is perfectly acceptable. I know, Dan.
          I have the upmost respect for your idea of what evil looks like.

          • Daniel Olson

            I dont think it was a blanket accusation, and cetainly I didnt feel targeted. If
            you are expecting to be criticized then thats likley what you will take away. He never once uses the terms conservatives or evangelicals… so you paint the target on your own back. But before you claim the “all other conservative Christians” accusation, you should consider that not ALL conservatives support the policies above.

            But if someone identifies themselves as strongly as an American as they do a Christian, and sees no conflict… then yes I see a problem. The nature of the new covenant transcends all cultures, and friendship with the world just doesnt work. I’m just as guilty as anyone with my coveting and desire for physical comforts.

            Dont get me wrong. I’m happy to live here in the USA… but I wont say that my walk with Christ is better for it or that being a Christian here is better than anywhere else. Its certainly more comfortable and acceptable to be Christian here. Unfortunately that doesnt lead to growth or joy I often think that Christians under real persecution, and i dont mean the wrist slaps we get here, have a far better understanding of the comfort and joy provided by the Spirit than we grasp under the “shelter” of the red white and blue.

            .

        • Jennifer A. Nolan

          I’m not sure if Digger’s thoughts come from the father of lies, but I second your basic feelings on those nasty remarks!

      • Tim

        I didn’t get the impression that the author was saying don’t celebrate anything else other than Jesus Christ. I understood him to that we need to understand what we are celebrating in view of God’s kingdom – are the values in alignment? If not, should our allegiance stand for ANY nation? He is asking can followers of Christ partake in the redemption of our society by renewing our allegiance to the kingdom of God.

  • Daniel Olson

    I know this happens, but I’m encouraged that it is not as widespread as it used to be, at least not in the circles I’ve traveled recently. More and more Christians are embracing their identities as Citizens of Heaven, surrendering more of their political and national affiliations for the sake of the kingdom. But let us also remember that we are soldiers, representatives, ambassadors, who must be able to present a life that clearly offers a better way than materialism, consumerism, blind socialism, and the “right justifies might” mentality. Its imperative that we compel people to “save themselves from this corrupt generation”
    .

  • Ryan

    I agree with your disapproval of nationalism (America is most certainly not a Christian nation), but let’s not go to the other extreme and denounce free trade, free speech, and the variety of other freedoms we have under the system. The trend that Christians seem to believe everything should drop everything, job and family, and go on a pilgrimage is silly to me. Who do you think pays to help traveling evangelists end world hunger? High class 9-5 workers under a capitalist system that are also members of the Kingdom of God and as such have been convicted to donate large portions of their income to charity. Capitalism has potential for good as well as evil, it’s just how we use it. The fact is, Paul had rich investors and a traveling job to support himself. So as soon as you stop needing money you let me know.

    • Jennifer A. Nolan

      Does it ever occur to you that some of us, both Christian and heathen (for lack of a better expression) should get off this economic merry-go-round and make some attempt at building a NEW economy? At least look up B-corporations on Google before you tell these Kingdom builders that they’re just dreamers. Are you a Christian, or a Randian wearing a Jesus mask?

      • 22044

        There’s nothing Ryan has said here that isn’t true.
        B Corporations are nice, but they won’t work for every business. Supporting free markets & free enterprise does not make one a Randian.

        • Jennifer A. Nolan

          How do you know the B-corporate formula won’t work for every business? Are you a businessman? An MBA? Whatever we think of the “poor,” this blog, and this group, the evangelical Red Letter Christians, stand by the message of Jesus that we must place the well-being of neighbors in distress above our own enrichment, or at least put them both on a par with each other. The Gospels are reasonably easy to read and replete with warnings against greed and stinginess. This is our Messiah’s message, and if it makes you uncomfortable, it’s because you have been hearing another gospel for too long and following the rules in THAT message.

          • 22044

            I studied business in college and continue to do so when I can, both in an academic context and through real life examples.
            A business is most concerned about how to meet its clients’ or customers’ needs; to achieve that end, its setup may legitimately have a different model than others.
            Business & commerce has been happening since the time periods discussed in Genesis. It is believed that the account of Job is perhaps the earliest historical account in the Bible. In that case, isn’t it interesting that he was a wealthy businessman, but that he put God above his wealth.

    • SamHamilton

      Good points Ryan. We must never put our country before God. But people can take it to extremes in the other way and condemn Christians who sings patriotic hymns in church and mischaracterize why men and women enlist in the military and fight in wars (to preserve our automobile culture? huh?).

  • Jennifer A. Nolan

    Whoa! Good luck with this one! I’m sure the hate mail is jamming your in-box. But thank you anywy, Mr.Mitchell; you’ve just made my weekend. I am sick to death of all this “patriotic” drivel, especially in light of Edward Snowden’s predicament.

  • SamHamilton

    This kind of post leaves just as bad a taste in my mouth as when people shout “America is a Christian nation!”

  • nkcwu

    There is no greater freedom than to make statements that are contrary to opinions held by the majority. Especially when it is at least done in the spirit of that majority’s own good.
    Granted his words might be a bit provocative (“blatantly ignoring Christ’s teaching”) but I think the core of his message still stands: do we really think about what and why we celebrate certain things, and do we really challenge ourselves in discovering what our hearts really desire and follow?
    Before you disagree with the author it is best to consider what the author actually said. For one he says that American churches (generalized as the American Church) celebrates 4th of July like a very holy day. Naturally the response to this assertion is “do they really?” That is a question American Christians should answer for themselves first and foremost.
    The author states that certain American values have their primacy and importance demonstrated by the willingness to go overseas and engage in combat with forces declared as a threat to these values’ existence (notwithstanding whether these forces actually are a threat, or at least trying to be- I mean who says they are?). Obviously the question is are these values really worth dying, and killing, for? Especially when compared to Christ’s teachings that we are called to be a blessing to the world, not it’s oppressor, and that we should be willing to die, not to kill. It might not be blatant as the author asserts, but that doesn’t mean the message has lost all its truths.

    It is a bit unsettling that the very values we are so ready to kill others for, are values we don’t spend a great deal of time contemplating their worth or origin. If tomorrow capitalism falls and the commies take over, are we going to have a much harder time loving the people around us and being a blessing to others? Because if the answer is yes, consider that you may be idolizing capitalism and prosperity in general. I would think it’s actually easier for some since iPhones and cars and business growth tend to consume a great deal of our attention. The things we have, can often be our worst enemy and oppressor when it comes to living as a Christian.

  • Bro. Roy

    Okay, after we get through apologizing for being an American, then what? Peace and prosperity? Apologize for what? Spreading Christianity and Capitalism? What a dastardly deed! With over half the world’s population going out into eternity without the gospel and most of the same half living on under two dollars a day, I’d say the world needs a good dose of Christianity and Capitalism… Just saying.

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