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Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Fourth

 Next Monday we will celebrate the Fourth of July, a uniquely American experience.  When our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, John Adams envisioned celebrations in every city with parades, fireworks and political speeches “from one end of this continent to the other.”  More than two centuries later, Adams’s dream is a reality.  Next Monday skyrockets and exploding bombs  will illuminate the night skies over cities, parks, and lakes.  Bands will march in the streets followed by decorated floats and mounted horses.  Politicians will address crowds from platforms decorated with red, white, and blue bunting.

 The Declaration of Independence adopted on the fourth of July in 1776 provides the focus for our American ideals: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  When the Declaration was signed our nation was far from the ideals it embraced. Slavery was widespread. Most states limited voting rights to white men who owned land.  Two and a half centuries later we have made progress, but the struggle continues to implement the ideals of equality.

 Robert Kaplan’s Empire Wilderness sought a re-examination of America in 1998.  Visiting a Mexican church in Tucson, Kaplan wrote, “The church conjured up tradition, sensuality, nostalgia.  If only this church were more relevant to the social forces roiling the southern half of Tucson.”  In The Next One Hundred Million, Joel Kotkin painted an optimistic future for America in 2050 based largely on our unique faith. He wrote, “a ‘spiritual’ tradition that extends beyond regular church attendance … persists as a vital force.” 

 We strive toward equality because that is the way God made us.  We are each made in His image and “endowed” every person with infinite worth. We best achieve equality when we seek to defend and achieve the rights of others.  We are taught, through faith, to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” that we are greatest when we are servant to others and that service to God is measured by our actions toward the “least of these.” 

 The pursuit of happiness can degenerate into the self-absorbed and destructive pursuit of pleasure.  Without faith in Christ we are prone to become captive to addictions and sins that easily beset us.  Jesus said, “Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin … if the Son makes you free you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36).  For every individual and nation, real freedom comes when God sets us free from greed, corruption, lust and addiction.  Real freedom is won when we seek the welfare and opportunity for others, especially for those who are "not like us."

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