I spent Independence Day doing what every red-blooded, patriotic American does: I worked on home improvement. We worked on fixing our deck, digging stones out of the back yard, and removing some truly monstrous roots from the garden. Seriously, one of them looks a bit like a huge horseradish or maybe a small mole.
At dinner with my parents, my mother and I were musing about Independence Day and what it means. So often you hear, "Give thanks for those who died to make this country free." I do give thanks for them, but that's not what we're celebrating. This is the day of the Declaration of Independence, the Colonies' beginning their insurrection against England. My mother put it well: "We said, 'NO.'" That really is the spirit of the holiday--we said no to tyranny and ambivalence and being subject to. And we said, "YES." We said yes to life, liberty, and happiness. We said yes to carving out our own destiny. We said yes to the possibility of failure. And we won.
I am very much an advocate for the separation of church and state. That said, there's a distinct similarity between that NO and YES and the NO and Yes we're asked for as Christians. The prophets and the mothers and fathers of the faith are remembered for standing up to tyranny, for saying "NO" to the powers that be. And they are beloved for saying "YES" to free will and compassion and love.
There is no guarantee that we'll succeed in this world. There is no surety that the garden I worked in today will be mine next year or even next week. There is no reason to believe that the Kingdom of God is ours here and now, and yet we Christians make the choice every day to stand up for what's right and to open our arms and hearts to the stranger. It is our experience of the holy in one another, in the Created world, in the structures and chaos of our lives which points to God.
It has been said that humans make their governments into idols. We see the safety and generosity and organization and we say, "Indeed, it is very good." And often that government can take the place of God. Ask yourself which you would choose: what is right in the eyes of God or what is right in the eyes of the government? This is not to suggest a rebellion here and now but to remind myself of where my priorities should be. God is the top of the hierarchy. I am in relationship with God as are billions of others--how do I then see the world? What does Creation look like through God's eyes rather than my own?