I’m scanning the blog posts that talk about the incongruity of followers of Jesus celebrating July 4th in a church, on a Sunday connected to July 4, or they are talking about flags and churches.
I’m seeing a clear trend: it’s wrong, they say, to celebrate America’s independence in a church context.
But there’s so little reflection on the dirty reality of what it means to fight for justice in this world. There’s such a distancing of God from the fight for justice, and such a separation of church from justice yearning.
Well, here’s my set of thoughts:
1. The most critical of celebrating July 4th on Sunday are progressives.
2. The defining characteristic of progressives is justice.
3. Celebrating freedom and release from oppression and reveling in the achievement of peace and justice are God-directed in the Bible.
I think the progressive critics are missing a great opportunity.
So, let’s turn July 4 into a universal celebration of justice. Let’s not hear about muskets and the British Crown and Boston and King George. Let’s hear about the importance of peace and justice and that God wants us to live justly.
4. Americans at the time of the War of Independence were fighting for justice, and thought winning was a win for freedom and justice. We can debate this, but very few battles for justice don’t have two sides. Just tell any formerly colonized country they can’t give praise to God (on a Sunday!) for their hard-fought independence and liberty.
5. Those of us who are committed to justice and to fighting against injustice want to direct our prayers toward God for victory and for peace, and to give God praise when the peace is achieved.
6. I don’t want churches to honor America, and I don’t want churches to give glory to war or to warriors, and I don’t want the flag to gain any semblance of iconic or liturgic value. I want to give glory to God, the God who brings justice, and who gathers us justice-shaped and peace-shaped people of God’s together to celebrate and to worship.
As for me and my house, though I’m opposed to war for Jesus’ followers, we want to celebrate justice and we want to honor those who take up the causes of justice in this world, and we want to give thanks to God in the midst of this awful mess of how to achieve justice in this world for the justices that are gained and for the injustices that are undone.
Frankly, I can’t think of a better place to celebrate with thanksgiving before God for freedom and justice than in a church, in a place that focuses our attention on God, and in a place where a cross puts before us the price to be paid for those who want that final and full justice.