I am not going to be the first and I won’t be the last to realize the irony in July 4th in America. In America, we recognize July 4th, as the day we got independence. This was the day that men signed the Declaration of Independence, separating us from our mother country of Britain. It sounds nice and pretty. It’s how the history book portray it. They make it sound so simple. People came here to escape religious persecution.
The truth is, it’s not really that simple. I’ve been taking a class in grad school about Christianity in America. I had thought about history before and about Christianity. I actually really love history. However, this class has caused me to have mixed feelings about our past. It has caused me to be angry and what people have stated and stood for under the guise of Christianity.
When we sought our independence, the majority of people who were in this country were not free. We forced them to come over here, against their will. But the men who ran the country didn’t even see them as people. They saw them as property and treated them worse than property. How can we celebrate that? I cannot wrap my brain around how we can look at fellow humans as anything less than human and claim that it was the Christian thing to do or say that they were doing it under some paternal guise. It literally makes me sick to my stomach.
Not only that, we wiped out the Native Americans who had been living here prior to our settling here. We drove those we didn’t kill west and told them where they could live and what they could do.
So this 4th of July, I thought about where our country came from and where our country is at now. I thought about how wrong we were to think that we were some how better and that there was a divine providence for the WASP. I thought about how men like Billy Graham and other white ministers told men like Martin Luther King Jr. to pull the reigns back and that they were causing too much a of disturbance when it came to fighting for civil rights and justice.
I know this seems cynical but it’s the truth about where we came from. This is the not so pretty side of history. The parts that we gloss over in history class. The parts that we don’t want to admit or talk about. But the thing is it happened and we can’t ignore that part of our past. Because remember history repeats itself.
I admit, I am what one would consider a typical white girl. I grew up in the suburbs of America. We were your typical family and my parents are still together over 25 years later. I didn’t experience judgement based on my skin color or get looked down as inferior. People haven’t assumed that I am guilty of committing crimes that I didn’t. If you look at me, you would imagine that I have a perfect life and in many ways I do. I am grateful for what I have been given.
But I’m not oblivious to where our country came from. I’m not naive anymore and not blind to how our country was founded. I cannot claim ignorance or agree with those who say that people back then just didn’t know. If other people knew that slavery was wrong back then and said something about it, how could people claim that they didn’t know?
I am grateful to have been born in this country and thankful for the freedoms that I do have. I know that there are many who do not have the same ones that I do. I know that I am free to type this blog. I know that I am free to worship the Lord how I want to. I know that I am free to do a lot of things in this country. But I know that a lot of people aren’t free. I know that there is still a lot of work that needs to happen in this country. I know that we need to keep fighting for justice and freedom. I know that we need to keep fighting for what is right and keep speaking out about injustice. I pray that we stand up for what is right and do not sit ideally by. I pray that we have the strength and holy boldness to stand by one another.
Isn’t that part of the beauty of America? Isn’t part of the beauty that we are free to stand up for what we believe in? That we can see the truth about things, that we don’t have to claim ignorance, that we can think for ourselves. I just know that we still have a ways to go to all really be free.
Just take a minute and really think about July 4th, freedom, and America. What does it all really mean?