What gives July 4th its significance is that the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Constitutional Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. The signers of the document knew that this bold declaration would start a revolution whose goal was freedom from dictatorial British rule. They stated: “These united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states”. So, every July 4th since then, Americans have celebrated the freedoms that resulted from that original courageous declaration with fireworks, parades and patriotic festivities of all kinds.
I wonder if most people take the time to reflect on the origins of this holiday. Most of us are happy for a day off and the enjoyment of a holiday with family and friends. But July 4th should be a time for us to thank God for our country and the freedoms we enjoy. I am not much of a world traveler but the few times I visited other countries, I came back convinced that I am blessed to live in this most secure and free country in the world. Patriotism is a virtue. I am unashamedly patriotic as I know most of you are. It brings a tear to my eye every July 4th to look up at the fireworks and hear the traditional marches and music that celebrate American goodness and inclusivity. I don’t mind slobbering over these great realities.
This July 4th, we are still in the midst of the COVID pandemic and also in the midst of protests in many cities about police extremism. We’re in a time when the wounds of slavery are still felt and expressed by African Americans and many others. Slavery was an outrageous indignity and a grave sin that once infected our country. Reading and hearing about its horrors should rankle our hearts and souls and propel us to be color-blind and universal in our respect for every human being. Thankfully, the days of physical slavery are over, but racism, in various forms, continues and flourishes in many places. For those of us who lived through the civil rights movement and cheered at victories of Martin Luther King and many others, we have to oppose every form of racism and the diabolical extremist groups that foster hatred for blacks and other minority groups.
I am aware that the police seem to be getting a bad rap these days. Like professionals in many areas, there are some police who fall short of the ideal and do harm rather than good. But policing can be a deadly career. I can’t imagine the bravery of a person willing to take on its risks these days. I lament the mistakes of some police over the last few months who have caused such harm to others. I pray for those who have been injured by them and for their families. However, the great majority of the men and women who protect us deserve our prayers and support. I, myself, pray for them every day. I’d ask you to do so too. We should also pray for any needed reform in procedures that should be undertaken at this time.
Dear friends, have a good 4th of July this year but remember to whisper some prayers of gratitude for our wonderful country which still has a way to go. As the hymn “America, the Beautiful” reminds us, let us ever-pray that “God mend our every flaw”.