Mourning With Those Who Mourn on the 4th of July

Mourning With Those Who Mourn on the 4th of July July 1, 2017

Mourn with Those Who Mourn

Think of how it feels when you lose a loved one. Perhaps you lost your spouse or parent or friend. Perhaps, even worse, you lost a baby, whether through miscarriage, soon after birth, or to SIDS. The grief is all-consuming and the joy of those around who are not experiencing such losses rubs salt in your wounds. How can they dare to be so happy in front of you? How can anyone in the world be happy when there are within you such yawning chasms of sorrow?

But the situation is even worse for black Americans and Native people—and others who do not feel fully free in America today. When a mother loses a child and struggles to conceive again, only to find that her friend is able to easily conceive, she may be angry, but she also understands, logically, that her friend is not causing her unhappiness or keeping a child from her. But for black Americans and Native people, knowing that there is a deep design in the injustice—stretching back to the founding of the nation—a deep belief in white society that it is supreme to other societies, that its lives matter more than other lives, whatever virtuous slogans it may give lip service to, that makes the disconnect so much worse. That so many white Americans are unwilling to listen to this pain, to sit with it, and to work to change the causes of it is worse still. Instead many members of white America act like Job’s friends, explaining to black Americans and Native people why they deserve their suffering.

I personally don’t plan to “cancel the Fourth.” I respect and understand the deep love for America, as well as deep grief, that motivates some to do this. In my community, to fail to celebrate would communicate that I don’t care about my nearest neighbors, and I do care. It would communicate that I don’t love my country, and I do love my country. (But I love it in the James Baldwin way, as well as the happy way: “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”) [Read more about the documentary film about James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro.]

I’m grateful for all the good we do have in America; I’m thankful for the way we keep learning and growing; I’m thankful for the sacrifices of military personnel who deserve respect and honor on this day. I’m grateful for the freedoms we do have.

However, I plan to celebrate with a bit of sobriety in my heart, remembering those who are still shut out from the promise of America. We must never forget that the work of freedom, while good and beautiful, is a job that is never done. We must never be so attached to the “beautiful dream” of what we imagine America to be that we fail to see what she really is, jewels and warts and all.

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Because this is a Christian blog, the things I’m talking about will obviously be topics that people feel strongly about in one direction or another. Please keep in mind that this is a place for substantive, respectful, constructive conversation. All perspectives are welcome to discuss here as long as all can treat each other with kindness and respect. Please ignore trolls, refuse to engage in personal attacks, try not to derail the conversation into divisive rabbit trails, and observe the comment policy listed on the right side of the page. Comments that violate these guidelines may be deleted. Vulgar remarks may result in immediate blacklisting. For those who clearly violate these policies repeatedly, my policy is to issue a warning which, if not regarded, may lead to blacklisting. This is not about censorship, but about creating a healthy, respectful environment for discussion.

P.S. Please also note that I am not a scientist, but a person with expertise in theology and the arts. While I am very interested in the relationship between science and faith, I do not believe I personally will be able to adequately address the many questions that inevitably come up related to science and religion. I encourage you to seek out the writings of theistic or Christian scientists to help with those discussions.

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photo credit: BPPrice ‘merica via photopin (license)

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