There’s really no experience like the 4th of July in the United States of America. For most of my life, I was caught up in the ‘proud to be an American’ fever, not thinking much of the day other than barbecuing with loads of family and friends, and watching a fantastic firework display.
The 4th was all about the delicious hamburgers and hot dogs, juicy watermelon, volleyball and soccer at the beach, and flashing lights in the sky. As I grew up, I realized that it was the day we Americans celebrated ‘freedom’ more than any other day of the year - we were celebrating Congress’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. A young American boy, I was proud that we had fought and won and gotten rid of that nasty ol’ King from England and his ‘taxation without representation’. “We’re Americans! This will be the ‘land of the free’!” my little heart cried out with all good patriots.
Then, I started to learn the whole story by studying history which prompted me to ask some questions - the type of questions that will make people wonder if you’re a ‘real American’.
When we study history, when we find a way to get ourselves in others’ shoes, and most importantly, when we listen to others’ voices - those voices that often say the exact opposite of what we think and believe and challenge all that we’ve ever known such as these two write-ups: one on the Fourth of July and the other concerning the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ – we will become much better creators of the biblical justice of Jesus Christ, in particular that bit of justice that commands all of us to the work of reconciliation. Even more, it will renew the mission of the church within a nation, in this particular instance, the American church in the United States of America, and help it find once again or maybe as a whole for the very first time its prophetic role in a nation that for too long has been its mistress, and make right the wrongs committed by even the Declaration of Independence on our Native American sisters and brothers.
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.