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.
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.
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.
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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