July is ideally a time when Americans intentionally remember the lessons of our nation's founding. Oftentimes, that intentional time to remember is obscured by watching fireworks, enjoying cookouts, and wearing red, white, and blue. During most of the first century of our nation’s independence, July 4th was also a day for public worship. On whatever day of the week the 4th of July happened to fall, people would flock to local churches to have that intentional time of remembrance.This largely is not the case anymore, unless the 4th of July happens to fall on a Sunday.
America is still a place that has a very healthy dose of civic religion, that type of feel good "God Bless America" religiousity that likes to forget that this country is not a utopia and never has been. While America has done great things, we also have a civic history that is also very tragic in many chapters. The United States has dealt horribly with some peoples and problems over the centuries and continues to do so in some cases. That is just the reality that 4th of July celebrations like to gloss over in favor of a civic religion that teaches that America is "the greatest nation in the world."
While that assertion may or may not be true, we forget that the American Revolution, like any civil war, was a family war where there were cases of brother against brother and father against son. We often forget a lot of that tragedy on the 4th of July. We like to think all of us over here were blameless and for independence against that tyrannical British King over there...but life and history are often much more complicated than that.
What I would ask you to ponder for this 4th of July season is the question of what we as Christians are called to proclaim to a nation that sees itself as a light on a hill. Like our nation's founders, we are called to proclaim a world better than the one we know. We are called to work not only to make it real, but to inspire our children with its promise and with the zeal to fulfill it. I invite you to ponder how you as a Christian might heed to call of the following collect prayer from our Prayerbook for the 4th of July:
"Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."