Happy Fourth of July
But I have a real ambivalence about the holiday that is the occasion for the fireworks. The ideals of freedom, equality and justice that we claim for the United States – as if we have a monopoly on them – are all to often used as a justification and motivation for wars that do not promote those ideals. More and more it seems that the laws of the United States are being written to favor the rich and the powerful over the poor or even the average. I don't know if this is a change in how things are or if I have just become more sensitive to it. I think the turning point in this regard happened a number of years ago when Lynn and I went to the lawyer to draw up our wills. What he said in effect was, these are the rules. And then, if you want to spend the money and the time, here are all of the ways you can get around the rules. In other words, one set of rules for most people and another set for those who can afford to hire lawyers and establish trusts.
The real issue is that my ultimate allegiance is not to the United States or to any country. My ultimate allegiance is to God. Now politicians like to invoke God to bless the country and to insinuate that we somehow have a favored spot in God's heart. Certainly the God of ancient Israel and Judah is portrayed like that. The infidelity of Judah and Israel to that God is also amply documented. But the aspect of God that speaks to me is the God of the prophets who remind the rich and the powerful to remember the poor and the needy, who advocate for widows and orphans, who condemn those who join house to house and field to field so that there is no room for the poor, and who call to account those who use false weights and measures in the marketplace.
There are people who equate patriotism with wearing a flag pin on your lapel. This is a patriotism of outward forms. It seems often to be used as a mask to cover up our own infidelity to our ideals. To me the ultimate patriots are people like Martin Luther King who challenged us to live up to our ideals, who said that if we want the blessings of God on us and our posterity, that we need to build a society that embodies God's justice and compassion. We need a patriotism that is based on something more than a celebration of our military power and economic might. At a time when we see economic and environmental dislocations in our immediate future, how do we respond with compassion. How do we build a society based on justice and sharing equitably when our natural response is to seek security by holding on to as much as we can for ourselves.
Happy Fourth of July.