Independence Day

Independence Day July 5, 2022

Yesterday, We drove up to Omaha to watch the Storm Chasers, a minor league team, and also watch the fireworks. We have done this many times over the years. It’s one of our favorite things to do on the 4th.

In many different ways, on Independence Day in the United States, we are prompted to cheer for America and celebrate. Anymore, all of that just falls a little flat. It’s not that I hate America, I love America and I have veterans in my family that have served, so I respect the military as well.

The best way I can describe it is I’m disappointed in America and the American church. We could do so much better. The problem is not that most people don’t love America, it is that we don’t love what America has become. Unfortunately, much of the negative I see comes from Christians. The ones that should be uniting us, are dividing us with American nationalism, and many other toxic, unfortunate practices.

Let me just talk this out.

Our loyalty is not to a flag. I remember when I first started to realized this. It was when I was in church singing patriotic songs and realized the flag had become an idol to me. Jesus never taught this type of loyalty to a country, and especially not to a piece of cloth.

Before we start queuing up Lee Greenwood in the background, I simply challenge you to think deeply about our allegiance to a flag. What changed for me is that the pledge to the flag is unconditional. It is blind allegiance to a something that is not eternal. When we pledge this blind allegiance, we negate every other country and other-ize their people. Why can’t we learn to love all countries–that sounds more like Jesus–that sounds exactly like Jesus.

Another idea we promote within churches and in religious circles is the idea of American Exceptionalism. It means that we think we’re better than everyone else. I could quote some Bible verses, but you know what they are. That’s definitely not a Christian attitude. And in many ways, it’s not true!

Another phrase that characterizes certain churches and American behavior is triumphalism. It’s the attitude of most empires when they triumph, thus the word. It’s the bully that beat up everybody on the playground who now is strutting around because he feels this makes him better than others. Again, this is not following the example of Jesus, and in our hearts, we know what the bully really feels like inside. That’s why they have to keep doing it.

These are the kind of things I’ve wrestled with over the years. Most of us have been so indoctrinated by Americanism, mixed with our religiosity, we feel like someone is insulting Jesus when they dare to question our ways and practices.

I ask you to consider the people who have been abused by American Nationalism, religion, and the warped view of what it means to be a patriot.

Someone grilled me the other day, at a book signing, about whether I was a Christian. They were worried that my beliefs were not exactly like theirs, so there was a very fearful look in their eyes that I may be different. But in many ways this topic is very similar to that one. We have been convinced for so long that we are right, and everyone else is wrong, that it terrifies us to challenge our beliefs.

But, I believe that’s exactly what we must do if we are going to fix the problem. We must all examine what we believe to be true deep down. And maybe it’s better to contemplate those beliefs and feelings at a baseball game than to join the pep rally, just because there’s pressure to do so.

Catchy phrases on the back of a t-shirt don’t phase out the problem. Moving songs that prove your point don’t really prove anything. It just divides us!

We can take time to listen to the other side, and take time to listen on the inside of ourselves. Do we really buy these toxic beliefs or are we going along with the crowd?

We told our children not to do this when they were in grade school, so maybe it’s time to take our own advice.

In many ways, learning to think for ourselves is the true Independence Day!

 

Be where you are, be who you are,

Karl Forehand

( Picture is us watching the fireworks from parking lot so we can get ahead of the crowd. Get it? )Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity

Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart and The Tea Shop. He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast. He is married to his wife Laura of 32 years and has one dog named Winston. His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply!

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