The American Independence Day (July 4th) is a frustrating event for me each year. People get together and celebrate American history, war, imperialism, independence (by way of the sword/riffle) and power... all things that I try not to celebrate--things that I find completely contrary to the Kingdom of God and to the Kerygma of the Church of a crucified king. Don't get me wrong, I do love the United States. I love (perhaps far too much) the excessive privileges we have here. Indeed, my love for this country is one of the greatest challenges to my faith... and it is just that--a challenge, not an aspect. My love for the comforts we enjoy often hardens me and keeps me from the poor which is the very same as being kept from Christ himself who shares his identity with the poor. My addiction to safety often clouds my vision and corrodes my compassion for the weak and the oppressed. My obsession for security keeps me from the generosity which is so central to my faith. My love for this country corrupts my faith and makes me cynical.
The beauty of God's kingdom is that it is an alternative to all this. It offers generosity in place of fear and interdependence in place of independence. For some, however, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of comfort (the U.S.A.) get confused and the distinctions become muddled. Patriotism and Christianity become synonymous and the Kingdom of God ceases to be the radical alternative society that it was meant to be. Around the 4th of July, patriotic songs get sung in church and American politics take the place of prophetic preaching. The American Jesus puts on the red, white, & blue. To me, this is nothing short of a distraction... a very confusing and frustrating one.
This year, July 4th falls on a Sunday--this Sunday.
I am sure that this Sunday there will be American flags overshadowing crosses, patriotic songs replacing hymns of worship, and copies of the constitution passed out in place of Bibles. Issues such as poverty, oppression, and hopelessness will take a back seat to concerns about "prayer in schools" and supporting "our" troops (the "our" of course referring to America, forgetting that "our" in the church means all nations). For many of us, we'd be disappointed with anything else... but my prayer is that we would enter this Sunday as worshipers of Jesus, the crucified king, who shares his identity with the poor, who is a king to all nations and the lover of a church without borders or military might. I pray that we are not distracted. I pray that our gratitude for the country in which we live would be filled with sober humility. This Sunday, let us celebrate resurrection over conquest, interdependence over independence, and hope over illusory security.
Let us pledge our one and only, undivided allegiance to Jesus Christ, the king of kings, who alone truly sets us free.