The fourth of July joins Memorial Day and Veterans day as the three times a year I feel out of step with the rest of American culture. While I’m grateful for my country’s freedoms and opportunities, and I want to mourn with those who mourn the losses of war, I cannot participate in rituals that glorify war.
The Fourth of July is certainly not a church holiday, but it is an opportunity for the church and the preacher to reflect on the history of the republic, the extraordinary group of leaders who gathered in Philadelphia to declare independence and their remarkable conclusion that at the heart of the American revolution would be individual liberty and freedom of conscience.
On July 4, 1976, bicentennial fever swept through the U.S., and I caught an especially acute case. Soldiers from George Washington’s army occupied my bedspread. The seal of the Continental Congress dignified my bedroom rug. On the Fourth I put on a tricorner hat, rolled up my jeans to turn them into knee breeches, donned my mom’s ruffled blouse and grabbed my musket so that I could march with a hundred other suburbanites in a neighborhood parade.