it is entirely impossible to escape the onslaught of opinions surrounding holidays like independence day. people on both sides of the isle excitedly talking about why they love their country and others preaching about how we should beware of our bent towards nationalism. i don’t want to be yet another noisy gong or clanging cymbal here, but from the conversations i’ve been having, it’s quite clear that the posture i have taken towards the country i live in is slightly misunderstood. so let’s do this:
i do not hate america. i love and respect her as the nation i call home and obey the laws of the land.
phew! feels good to get that one off my chest.
nationalistic fervor, patriotism and the like are well understood in my mind. it’s not difficult to see why folks would be thankful to live in a country that affords them many liberties that are not so accessible in other nations. i have no trouble recognizing all the good america has done throughout the world, and i appreciate the ability to speak freely and practice my religion without threat of violence or persecution. these are good things, and they are not to be downplayed or forgotten.
however (you knew this was coming), i’m not patriotic. i do not get goose bumps when i hear the national anthem or god bless america playing over fireworks or during the 8th inning of a baseball game. my consciousness has been made far too aware of her violent and oppressive beginnings to ever affirm america as a place of moral purity. she has never been nor will she ever (or any other nation) be “christian”.
but there are goose bumps aplenty when i hear of the good work being accomplished by folks who have dedicated their lives to the cause of the kingdom of heaven; a community of people defined (by her king) as one that makes peace in forgotten and broken places, brings healing and is relentlessly forgiving.
for example, i was having a conversation the other day with my housemate about how i’ve witnessed his admirable efforts in the realm of premeditated peacemaking. my friend goes out of his way to mentor a young man who is of little value to america (unless he decides to fight for her). he is the son of an immigrant and lives in one of the worst neighborhoods in all of massachusetts. by all accounts, he should have ended up in the gang on his street, but my friend has taken the time to bring peace into his life, and the life of his family.
this young man’s life will have been forever changed because my friend has decided to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of shalom for someone other than himself. in a country fixed on individualistic pursuits of wealth, independence (though pursued for the good of others, most often won through violence) and so-called moral purity, the ethos of the kingdom of heaven shines as bright as the sun: people willing to give of themselves, cast aside judgment, putting their well-being at risk (carrying a cross) in order to put the kingdom of the lion and the lamb on display.
i refuse to be the angsty twenty-something i used to be. i will not be the “anti-you name it guy.” we must give an alternative to the system where power reigns, where poor and sinner are lives for gain; food for a better tomorrow. all the while, we must remember not to despise the place we find ourselves in. it is all too easy to go one way or the other, rather than opting for a “third way”.
each person is of enormous worth and i pledge allegiance to a kingdom that values people over property. when we pledge our whole selves to the kingdom where God is king, we will come to find that people are not an obstacle on our way to success and happiness, but an end in and of themselves.
rather than independence, i’m dedicated to pursuing the creation of a holy, Jesus-like community in a world devoid of peace. may we be ever dependent upon the Spirit that breathes life in to the community of the Christ rather than