Word of the Week

Just stop with all the nationalism: don't celebrate the 4th of July in church

It's that's that time again church. The 4th of July is coming.

And so I'm wondering how much nationalism (or lack thereof) are going to be a part of your congregational experience on Sunday?

When in 2019 our President is turning the holiday on Thursday into a celebration of power, greed and ego, when my city is preparing for the invasion of tanks, flying over jets and military marches, I wonder what the faith alternative may be?

Here's a good place to start, pastor friends, carefully consider how you plan worship. Do not buy into the lie that our faith can ever be nationalist driven.

Though these ideas might not make me very popular:

A good place to start would be: do not sing "America the Beautiful" or "My Country Tis of Thee"

Do not put more flags around the pulpit than you already have (and if you have any take them out!)

Do not adorn your sanctuary in red, white and blue or pass out "I love America buttons" on the way out of the service.

While I know there is so much cultural pressure to do so especially this time of cultural Christianity that we are living in,  please, oh please, do none of these things.

Or if you do, AT LEAST think theologically through WHY you do them first.

Think about what it means to say, "land where my father's died; land of the pilgrim pride"-- is our faith about conquest and battle? What about loving all of our neighbors?

Think about the values of our American history-- whose lands did the first settlers "have" that was not theirs to take? Who did we enslave so that we could prosper as a nation so quickly?

Think about what it means to elevate the supremacy of Americans-- do we really think we're better human beings just because we were born in America? Is our faith one of exclusion?

The way I see it, patriotism is not bad when in the right context. There are rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship in any land.

BUT, faith, my friends is an entirely different topic.

Separation of church and state anyone?

Throughout the gospels, Jesus never links our  faith to our country of origin or vice versa. There were clear lines of distinction between what was "Caesar's" (i.e. the nation) and what was "God's." Jesus and the Apostle Paul remind us over and over again that our citizenship is in heaven, not on earth.

And as faith leaders, we ought to model these different priorities.

We ought to show how God loves not only those who live and work in places close to us, both those far away too. We ought to carefully consider the laws and rules of our land as they hurt the most vulnerable among us both in our country and outside. To love our country more than we love our God, is so very wrong.

So, American preacher friends and church leaders, go on with business as usual. Do what you do every Sunday.

Worship God with thanksgiving.

Pray for our country’s leaders that they may have the wisdom they need to led us in moral paths that benefit all citizens, not just a few.

Consider opportunities to care for those who have come home from war or are in military posts of service right now.

There is a time and place for everything.

When it comes to the actual day, the 4th, I think we all need to use our own conscience to decide what we do.

As for me, I will gather with church friends to be in a community parade away from the hustle and bustle of downtown DC, a neighborhood gathering place for thousands who live around the steps of our church.

We'll meet neighbors, give out popsicles and share "love is love" stickers.

Some of my colleagues have deemed the 4th a day of repentance and national mourning, which I totally respect, I'll be present in my community wearing my clergy collar hoping to have some conversations about what it means to resist the cultural norm.

What about you?