Happy almost 4th of July! To be honest, this holiday in which we commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress, is one that always comes with mixed emotions for me, but this year even more so and leaves me wondering what I can salvage amidst the rampant and disorienting violence and systematic dehumanizing of so many of our fellow citizens.
On the one hand I am so very grateful for a moment to recognize and give thanks for the freedom we enjoy and often take for granted in this country. At the same time though, I find I have developed a certain hermeneutic of suspicion over the years regarding national politics and our government’s actions on the international stage. And because of the latter, I am often resistant to embracing anything emphasizing American patriotism including national holidays, the flying of the American flag and, over the last few tears, the singing of the National Anthem at sports events. Compounded to all of that is now the endless litany of names of black men and women who have had their civil liberties denied and even lives cut short.
It is an uncomfortable conflict inside and one I often leave unnamed, but that day needs to be done. Instead I want to see with clear eyes, learn with a new heart, and try to reclaim what is good and true and possible in giving thanks for the liberties we enjoy while also accepting the responsibility of my role as a citizen of this country. As the old gospel song says, “I want to order my steps, in Your word…”
On Sunday, March 31, 1968, just four days before he was struck down by an assassin’s bullet, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached a sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington. In it he invited his listeners to place their differences and struggles in the context of God’s ordering of the universe. Dr. King suggested whatever differences we may experience our mutual vulnerability and humanity unites us more deeply than whatever divides us.
His words help me again and again as I look for ways to reclaim the best of what our country has to offer- a dream and vision of a place we call home where each and every citizen, visitor and new resident is respectful, kind and generous to each other. It is the vision of a place and a people that are united not univocal, and diverse not didactic- creating the rich tapestry we claim as our own through mutual dependency; the Beloved Community.
I leave you with King’s words today hoping they help remind us this is a country, when at our best, has historically welcomed the stranger, inspired great deeds of selfless heroism and dared to face into the challenges of what it means to be united while also being blessedly diverse. May each of us, remember what it is like to be a stranger in this land, and do all we can through our words and deeds to respond to each other with dignity and respect.
We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.
May you never forget that you are loved,