July 4 is our nation’s birthday. We are an experiment in virtue-based freedom that is now 236 years old, one of the longest eras of national stability in global history.
We are a self-correcting nation, with the Civil War of 1865 and the Civil Rights of 1965 correcting the birth defect of chattel slavery. Women finally voted in 1920 and 18-21 year old soldiers that could bleed were able to fill out ballots by 1972. We are still wrestling with our broken covenants with the First Nation/Native American tribes and our war with Mexico in 1848. In the midst of all the deserved criticism for Manifest Destiny and continental imperialism, people forget that no one north of the Rio Grande wanted (or really wants today) to be ruled by Mexico City and that thousands of leaders of conscience opposed the policies of rapapcious settlement.
We are the freest land in the world for people of all faiths or none to practice and preach their ideas without fear. Apart from tax issues and proper public permits, we are free to gather and express our ideas without prior permission. This was and is a unique reality of the USA.
We have amazing foundations of faith, freedom and sacrificial service. We have fractures of hedonism and enthnocentrism to repair and redeem. We still have too many unborn that are unwelcome and too many aged that are in oblivion. We have too many unemployed urban adults and too few political leaders with the courage to call for moral responsibnility. We are still a generous people, responding to crises with affection and alacrity. We are also spoiled, forgetting that even the (too) many that live in poverty in the USA are wealthy compared with half the world.
As we move into our 237th year, we aagain face “times that try men’s (and women’s) souls.” Our future rests on recovering the humility, reverence and tenacity that built the land we enjoy. If we will choose life in all its dimensions, including caring for all from conception to coronation, there is hope. If we commit to empowering suceess through free markets under the rule of law, there is hope. If we can learn civil debate and roll up our sleeves and become an answer to the prayers and problems, there is hope.
In 2008 we were sold a slogan, “Hope and Change.” In 2012, we need to become these words by doing and speaking the truth in love. If we will fear God, live within our means, stand up to intolerance and fear, affirm the central values of a virtuous society, and keep our marital and material covenants, there is hope.
Happy birthday, America. You are not a melting pot or a salad bowl. Your are a beautiful mosaic from every corner of world. Sometimes you are a crazy quilt with loose threads. But you remain a land worth praying for and serving well.