The Fourth of July is a nice oasis in the midst of summer — a certain languor about the day, hot weather, a cook-out perhaps, and fireworks in the evening. The day allows us to repose on the solid substance of America. We drift for a day, afloat on the core of our freedom and liberty. We try, by honoring independence, not to take for granted what everything about the smooth current of our lives tells us we can take for granted.
What are we learning again as a country this year? That a nation cannot will itself into its own stated morals and principles. It can barely adjure its people to pursue them. No single aspect of government, no one institution fully embodies the principles that Jefferson (and Franklin and Adams) outlined in the Declaration of Independence. Those principles can only be embodied by the American people themselves and by the living of those values day-by-day-by-day, consistently working out what our core ethics are to look like in today’s America. This endeavor is the responsibility of all of us.
It was the appeal of America’s values — and the vision of statesmen like Jefferson and Franklin who were willing to engage in ideas. And these ideas have been put into action time and time again to overcome prejudice, avarice, and mere self-interest. We have addressed important social and economic injustices on a myriad of fronts and have redressed grievances and set backs by adding laws and principles to our core which give specific guidelines for practices which are more just. But on several fronts, we have more work to do; we have not arrived yet, as citizens and as followers of Jesus. Yes, we have turned some corners, but the evidence is clear: we have a way to go in realizing the beloved community — of “striving for justice and peace among all people and respecting the dignity of every human being” (BCP, p. 305).
This Sunday, July 3rd, we will pray for our country and sing national music, and we will hope fervently that our faith will give us a larger vision of God’s love for all people. Join us.