But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. –Peter 2:9-10
First, let me say, “Happy Fourth of July!”
As someone who is a chosen American (Feb 15, 1985), I am especially pleased to celebrate the simple fact that the United States of America exists. We are still – even in these tumultuous times – a very real testimony to the power and the effectiveness of the idea and the practice of freedom.
However, and lest we forget, a huge part of this ongoing experiment that America represents must be evaluation, and dissent, and argument, and questioning, and protest, and recalibration. Asking hard questions of ourselves is not about disrespecting America, but about loving America enough to want to be better, to be more free, to extend these precious liberties to more people, and to right the wrongs that – inevitably – happen along the way.
I have thought a lot about the heart and soul of our country over the past few weeks, and why this current “moment” is so difficult. And I believe in large part we struggle because the heart of our identity makes it especially challenging to do two particular things we absolutely need to do:
- Own up to our failings: America is by definition so self-confident, so brash, and so self-assured we have a hard time ever admitting that we are wrong. Humility really isn’t part of the brand! But I believe it should be.
- Follow public health guidelines: America was forged from the independent spirit this day was named for! “I’m an American!” Nobody tells me what to do!” Many of us would rather exacerbate a pandemic than accept any restrictions on the liberty that defines us. This is both naïve and self-destructive.
But there’s not much liberty when you’re on a respirator, or dead. And there’s not much to celebrate when “practicing my rights” super-spreads a virus that is killing tens of thousands of people, the economy, education, public worship, and so much more. The word “counterproductive” comes to mind.
Please understand this:
That said, and the reason I’m writing this today, I get it! I understand where so much of this is coming from. I believe that much of today’s angst and oppositional behavior is coming out of a place that loves America so much we are blinded by our own emotion.
But understand this, dissenting friends, people with different ideas about politics, public health, social justice, and the proper place for statues that seem to celebrate oppression do not in any way “Hate America”. They love this country enough to want to see us become even more of a light to the world than we already are.
Let’s move forward in that kind of mutual understanding and deeply motivated commitment to “Liberty and Justice for all.”
… So that we “may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (Peter 2:9-10).
In love – DEREK