Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day! July 4, 2015

For this 4th of July, I thought I would repost something I wrote on this occasion in 2008:

It is the 4th of July, and in the United States, we often find people mixing Christianity and nationalism in ways that are at best ironic, and at times downright contradictory. The 4th of July is thus an appropriate day for reflection on Christianity, nationalism, and what might have been different had the colonies in the New World not fought for their independence.

First, we should remember the ways that Jesus challenged the nationalism of his time. There has been some interesting discussion of Bible translation in the blogospherelately. If we’re going to translate so as to make the meaning intelligible to any reader in a language today, then we have to effectively translate the impact of the story or saying, and the shock it would have caused to its original hearers.

I wonder how many American Christians would value their Bibles as highly as they do now in theory, if they contained such dynamically equivalent translations, and said things like “Many will come from Iraq and Afghanistan and take their place in the kingdom of God, while many Americans will be cast out.” Ouch!

We also need to remember that today we celebrate our declaring our independence from a “Christian empire”, and our independence surely contributed to the weakening and downfall of that empire. With the wealth and potential for expansion that ended up in the hands of the United States rather than Britain, presumably England’s empire would have remained powerful for much longer. Its holdings also included the Middle East, and so all those lines that the British drew when they withdrew, creating nation-states that separated people who wanted to be together and lumped together people who wanted to be separate, would perhaps not be there even today.

Where would the Baptists and others who valued religious freedom have fled to?

Without this loss of prominence and dominance, would the Church of England have become such a broad tradition with such a progressive outlook in at least some quarters, ordaining women and eventually even homosexuals?

If the “United States” had remained part of this “Christian empire”, then rather than celebrating our independence today, there might be many groups, including Christian groups, hoping and praying and perhaps even fighting for their independence from us.

Think about it… and remember, if we don’t use our independence wisely, Alan Baxter, John Cleese and/or the Queen might still revoke it

Have a happy 4th of July!

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  • Michael Wilson

    During my time with the Southern Baptists and from current pursuing of conservative Christian thought, I don’t think they would be shocked by the notion of Iraqis and Afghanis getting onto heaven before many Americans. And while a number of GIs I talk to have less than glowing things to say about middle easterners, most believe their duty was of benefit to them, and certainly the case made for war was not to punish the people of these nations but to free them from cruel overlords. Now if you suggested many French, Dutch, and San Franciscans will proceed then to the kingdom of God, then you would have some offence.

    • Nick G

      most believe their duty was of benefit to them

      Yup, people are indeed capable of believing just about anything in the cause of feeling good about themselves.

  • Nick G

    what might have been different had the colonies in the New World not fought for their independence.

    The USA might have ended up like Canada!!! Horrors 😉

    Somewhat more seriously:

    We also need to remember that today we celebrate our declaring our independence from a “Christian empire”, and our independence surely
    contributed to the weakening and downfall of that empire. With the
    wealth and potential for expansion that ended up in the hands of the
    United States rather than Britain, presumably England’s empire would
    have remained powerful for much longer.

    That’s rather an odd “surely”, since most of the growth of the British (not English) Empire came after American independence! It was part of the Great European Land Grab of the 19th century, in which the USA joined as enthusiastically as any of the strictly (i.e. geographically, rather than just culturally and demographically) European powers. If American independence had not occurred in 1776, it would probably have happened not many decades afterwards, in one way or another, since the colonies had grown beyond any possible outside threat from which they needed British protection*, and in those circumstances were bound to resent direction from London, and especially, constraints on their program of westward expansion.

    *Canada remained content to be ruled from London much longer, precisely because of the threat from the USA!