This evening we went down to the park, near the university, for the fireworks. Of course, there have been various “4th of July” festivities going on all day around town – but we only ventured out for the dazzling pyrotechnic display that comes at the end of the evening.
It was on this day that the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress of 1776, though the date itself remains somewhat arbitrary – as those in the northern colonies had been engaged in open rebellion since the previous Spring, and a previous congressional resolution declaring independence from Great Britain had already passed earlier in the Summer…
“…our founding parents were pompous, white, middle-aged farmers – but they were also great men. Because they knew one thing that all great men should know: that they didn`t know everything…”
All of this notwithstanding, the 4th of July has evolved over time into something akin to a “birthday party” for this nation – and, rather than a dry cerebral contemplation of the historical significance and/or the implications of this day, it remains as yet another reason for Americans to eat, drink, and be merry.
In two-hundred and thirty years the United States of America has grown from a small confederation of thirteen fledgling states, populated by a scattered smattering of Anglo-Saxon Christians (and their slaves), into a vast empire of every race and creed which crosses the length of an entire continent. America is a country that contains 5% of the world`s population, yet consumes more than a quarter of its resources – wielding more power and influence over the global community than any single realm that has come before.
Hearkening back to a voice of this country`s past, I consider the sentiment of Frederick Douglass in contemplating a question of my own: what, precisely, does the 4th of July represent for a follower of Christ?
In this country we are granted manifold protections – and for that I am thankful for His providential hand throughout the course of human events, not the cleverness of human machinations.
Verily… we may worship as we please, we may openly evangelize without fear of obdurate state-sanctioned persecution, and we may even establish churches under a tax-exempt status – though these, like all freedoms, are readily and easily abused.
However, contrary to even the prevailing beliefs of our day, this nation was not established upon even the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith as much as it was a socio-political outworking of the Enlightenment and Transcendentalist ideologies.
Though the influence of Christianity was quite pervasive within the people and culture of the time, it was the Deism of Thomas Jefferson that casts the largest shadow over this document… and, as a result, this nation.
Moreover, I fear that too many find the terms “Christian” and “American” to be redundant, ascribing a sort of eschatological assumption as to the innate goodness of the land of their birth – I know this from experience.
We have forgotten that our place within the suburban wastelands of this gilded country is the same as that of our Brothers among the bloody Maoists in China or the Mohammedan fanatics in the burgeoning Islamic empire… we have forgotten that we are adopted heirs to an eternal kingdom, that we are but simple emissaries to a dying world, that to live is Christ and to die is gain.
If we (as His bond-servants) are a nation, then we are a nation of priests – separate and cut-off from the ways of the world and called out from it to be beacons unto Him. Our loyalties with each other should cross every international border, irrespective of the political loyalties of the day.
So as I watch the dazzling display overhead, I thought upon my LORD… of how He was dragged outside of the city walls and murdered by the political and ecclesiastical authorities of the time.
I thought of the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews; extolling me, by the Holy Spirit, to go to Him beyond the walls of this “manifest destiny” and bear the reproach He endured – for I, as with my Brethren across the world, have no lasting nation here… but I seek the Glory that is yet to come.