July 4, 2020

America’s Independence Day seems a strange holiday to “celebrate” this year. Our country is in turmoil with racial protests in cities both large and small. Our government’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic has left our country first meriting the world’s scorn and eventually its pity. Our people are so polarized that even wearing a mask is viewed as a political statement.

Yesterday President Trump gave a speech in front of Mount Rushmore, a site where white Americans literally engraved their political heroes on top of the sacred hills of the Native Americans they displaced. In his speech he declared that this summer’s protestors – a group that includes me – are a “dangerous movement”, a “radical assault”, “far-left fascism”, a “left-wing cultural revolution designed to overthrow the American Revolution”, resulting in “the very definition of totalitarianism”.

Me? I’d just like to see some responsible leadership. I’d like to not have black people get killed by police at ridiculous rates. I‘d like to have more white people like me start coming to grips with how recent (and current) our racist systems were and still are. And I’d like us to start changing those systems.

My Christian faith should be common ground even with those who see politics very differently. Yet this year there are so many, especially among the white evangelical group, who don’t even seem to share a common reality. Inconvenient facts are “fake news”. Any wrong that the President does is either overblown by the media or justifiable. (The ends are what are important, right?)

How can you sit quietly to maintain the perception of unity in the fellowship when it requires you to not talk about applying your faith to current events?

That thing where Jesus said he would set brother against brother seems a lot more real when your brother is so frustrated with your application of faith to your politics that he isn’t talking to you. But then I wonder whether he’s quoting the same verse thinking about me. And I wonder how we ever get past it.

There is no city fireworks display this year and I’m finding no joy in the neighbors’ best attempts to make up for it. Not so many Independence Days ago I would drag the kids out into the oppressive humidity and battle mosquitos just so we could enjoy the fireworks with oohs and awe. Tonight the explosions just bring acrid smoke and unwelcome noise late into the tired night.

What will next year’s celebration look like? What will we be celebrating? Will we be any less tired? Any more hopeful?

Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.

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