Wednesday, July 4, 2018
The Fourth of July in 1955 looked like this to me:
• red, white and blue crêpe paper strung through my bicycle wheels
• an open fire hydrant at the height of the hot afternoon
• about six firecrackers, fizzling off a neighbor’s doorstep
• hot dogs, Kool-Aid and catching fireflies after sunset
We gathered our families, hoisted the flag, prayed for loved ones lost in a war too fresh to reflect on. We listened to music by John Philip Souza. We felt safe, strong, comfortable and grateful to be Americans. But my 10-year old America was very small.
It was an America before Civil Rights, Medicare and Medicaid; before the Kennedy and King assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate. It pre-dated Roe v. Wade, drug wars, mass shootings, 9/11, global warming, and marriage equality. It was a world without internet, cable news and Twitter.
It was a simple, circumscribed world that we will never see again. So we should stop trying, because it was not a perfect world. Its wounds and warts were about to fester. We have spent the intervening half-century doctoring ourselves for its recurring symptoms, never able to acknowledge the systemic cause of our pain.
For what it’s worth, here’s my diagnosis: Americans are afraid of God, and it’s making us sick.
But why are we so afraid?
Contrary to the long-held opinions of some, modern evidence suggests that God is not male, not white, not a warrior, not rich, and not even American! And this scares some of us to death! We need that kind of God to justify our greed, domination and global arrogance.
So we keep creating the God we need. He carries an AK-47 and has a nuclear button under his fingertip. He builds walls to control people who are poor, hungry, and shades of brown. He stratifies people based on wealth, whiteness and worth to the system. He believes America should be first, and the rest of the world last. He reshapes religion into a vehicle for his own heartless caricature.
If we could just gain our independence from this idolatrous God, we might have better reason to celebrate the Fourth of July.
Today’s reading from the Book of Amos tells us what this liberating God wants:
Seek good and not evil, that you may live;
Then truly will the LORD, the God of hosts, be with you as you claim!
Hate evil and love good, and let mercy prevail at the border;
Then it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will have pity on you.
I hate, I spurn your feasts, says the LORD; I take no pleasure in your solemnities;
Your false prayers I will not accept. Away with your noisy songs!
But if you would truly honor Me, then let justice surge like water,
and mercy like an unfailing stream.
Music: God Bless America