This is my first “Independence Day” in the US in about two years. In 2015 and 2016, I was blissfully traveling in India, where the 4th of July was just another day to everyone around me. I wasn’t asked about it and I liked it that way.
I suppose that it’s important to mention that lately I’ve found my patriotism to be difficult to maintain considering how our country is rapidly burning. Well, it was always on fire but most of us weren’t aware just how hot the fire could be until the 2016 election showed us the hateful face of America.
America has given me incredible privileges. The fact that I’m free to start a blog, that I am literate, and that I even have the free time to engage in this form of expression is a privilege. I’m aware that my Cum Laude BA, my middle class parents, mid-tone skin color, and citizenship are massive privileges.
But, my anger with this country is not because I lack comforts or rights in any way. It’s not about me; it’s about my brother and sister. It’s difficult for me to trust the police when I see my black brothers and sisters shot like animals on the street. It’s difficult for me to embrace my Caucasian brother- or sister-in-Christ when I see many professing Christians ripping off women’s hijabs or chanting “Build the wall!”
It’s easy for me to look at the state of the American Church now and shake my head, beat my chest, and tear my clothes in distress. However, what I’m coming to realize and understand is that our church history was always this way. We Christians have owned slaves and justified it; it’s being justified in churches today as well. We have decided that women should have no voice in the church and it’s still difficult for women to stand behind a pulpit and speak about what God has done in them and through them. We have told people that their language is not fit for church, their dancing is too charismatic, and their Bible must be the KJV. We’ve made idols of abortion and homosexuality, forgetting that if we’re pro-life, we’re pro-every life, not just unborn. And when homosexuality is mentioned in the New Testament, it’s typically in a group of other sins, which tells us that neither Jesus nor Paul overly emphasized homosexuality (in fact, Jesus never mentioned it).
How do we not see that these racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and xenophobic traditions permeate our church buildings and manifest in the hatred we read about in the news?
Today in my Georgian church (state, not country), the theme for the service was “God Bless America.” “Oh boy. Here we go”, I thought, as I walked past hundreds of people donning American flag-themed clothing and hats. Huge American flags decorated every part of the sanctuary. “Oh no.” I sat through most of the strong patriotic expressions with mild discomfort, but when it came time to worship The Lord, I found the music choices a little pale.
The worship minister quoted several “founding fathers” of our faith (in the US, at least), and brushed aside those aforementioned fathers’ affinity for slavery and misogyny. The hymns chosen were beautiful and they deeply touched my heart, but after the service I was left with uncomfortable feelings. Why was only white Christianity celebrated and revered? Were not the African slaves actually masters of painful, glorious, heart-wrenching spirituals that praised the Everlasting God? Where were those in the service? Was their Christianity inferior? Or maybe no one wanted to talk about that part of the Church’s past.
The pastor spoke of returning to the way things were in the Church, but I don’t want to do that! Jesus doesn’t want us to, either, if I may be so bold. We have our “founding fathers” before us as examples of men who pursued God, but let color, gender, culture and economics/politics keep them from truly living out the Gospel. Thanks, guys. But, now, we know better. Well, we’re supposed to know better. We must desire to do a better job of representing Christ and His Church (Us) on this earth.
As Christians, we must:
- Make God our ultimate authority
- Rely on Scripture and NOT Church tradition (traditions are fine, but not when they hinder growth or reconciliation)
- Pursue racial, linguistic, cultural, etc. reconciliation with all people
- Include others in our worship services.
Remember, the Church began in the Middle East, not the USA.
Here’s a great video where Michelle Higgins, a Christian social justice activist, explores this topic in depth:
Happy Independence Day.