Here’s what I’m going to do this 4th of July for my own self and with my whip-smart, very aware, impressionably-aged child:
I think I might sit down as a family and start with a little study on the Kingdom of God. More on the ways it’s described in the prophets, maybe, than the parts that talk about how it spreads or grows, because that’s great but not what we’re doing right now. The lion-and-lamb-snuggling type stuff. The orphans-will-be-put-in-families type stuff. The beating-swords-into-plowshares type stuff. The shalom stuff.
Then maybe we’ll talk about the ways that America is like that, and we will celebrate those ways. We will be thankful for living in a country that DOES have some of those qualities, which are admirable not because America is the greatest, but because the Kingdom of God does exist, imperfectly, incompletely, but certainly, here and now. We haven’t skipped a meal involuntarily, I’m pretty sure, in our entire lives. I am confident that my lot as a woman is so-ho-ho much better and less terrifying and more dripping with opportunity than if I had been born in a lot of other parts of the world. We had a super amazing trip to Disney this year with my family that was pure delight and enjoyment and wonder and we are so fortunate. We have opportunities. We have institutions that facilitate our safety. We have access to 800 different versions of education. In a lot of ways, our laws and systems are built to protect and uplift every individual. And in a lot of cases they do, compared to a lot of other places in the world where it’s not even a stated goal, much less a fully realized one.
And then we’ll talk about the ways that America doesn’t look like the Kingdom of God. We’ll mourn the ways we fall short. We’ll mourn the ways that even though we say we value every human life, in practice it doesn’t turn out that way a lot of the time. We’ll share some truths about America and we’ll mourn those, not because America is terrible, but because the Kingdom of God isn’t fully here yet.
I think next we’ll look at some of the people, churches, orgs, and movements that are pouring blood, sweat, and tears into closing that gap as much as they are able – between the now and the not yet. We’ll “look for the helpers,” as I believe good ole Fred Rogers said. We’ll talk about what we can do with what’s in our hands, to make it better, because of the privilege and opportunity that we have as a result of being born into this time and place, and most importantly, by the grace of God.
There’s a dialogue out there that says that you can’t be both grateful and concerned, you can’t be both proud of your heritage and penitent. What’s the saying about how it’s a sign of intelligence to be able to hold two conflicting ideas at once? Anybody trying to tell you that one of these things necessarily means the exclusion of the other is selling the truth short, neglecting healthy self-examination, and squashing constructive conversation.
We’ll wrap up with some humble gratitude again, because for whatever reason, the worst of these things hardly touches us personally. We’ll include a sincere prayer that God would continue to “break our hearts for what breaks” his, to not allow that gratitude to turn to complacency, but also to not allow the magnitude of the need to overwhelm and discourage us.
And then we’ll probably eat some hot dogs and watch some stuff blow up.