July 4th reminds us of the best and worst of American history. Many celebrate Independence Day and the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. And there is much to be proud of as we remember the sacrifices of so many that keep freedom’s flag flying. Others consider the failure of the Founders and Framers to offer a clear road of Emancipation for the slaves, thus delaying justice for millions, costing our nation a horrible Civil War, the tragedy of Jim Crow, and the unfulfilled promises of the Civil Rights Movement. Add to this the almost 100% record of broken covenants and treaties between the USA and the indigenous Native American tribes and being suspicious of American ideals is understandable.
The USA is an experiment in virtue-based liberty and representative governance rooted in reverence of the Almighty, the equality of all people, and limitations on the power of government. But our history is a tapestry of tremendous and tortured narratives. We celebrate the Ellis Island Hospitality enshrined in the Statue of Liberty and forget the prejudice, racism, and exploitation of both slaves and immigrants. We rightly celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation of our culture and forget the painful road toward prosperity for most workers.
What makes America truly great? First, we see that our first liberty, enshrined in the first 16 words of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights is complete freedom of conscience and religion for people of all faiths (or no faith) to live their lives and build their communities without government interference. Second, the promise of and potential for genuine access, equity, and opportunity for everyone. And third, our history of halting but continual progress toward justice.
Let’s celebrate heroes of the past and hopes for the future. Let’s feast in freedom and build a future so more can enjoy the fruits of freedom.
Courage and humility must find active expression as we confront enemies determined to destroy our cherished freedoms. Here are three more strategic insights for this long conflict:
One: We must repent of and repudiate all historical and present forms of oppression, including any divisions of class, gender, race, religion or political opinion. We will not always agree and should freely debate on all matters eternal and temporal. But we must want for all others the liberties and opportunities we desire for ourselves.
Two: We must humbly reaffirm our enduring values and offer genuine hope for better days in our neighborhoods and nations. Politicians must cease posturing and begin working for the common good. Moms and Dads need to place their children’s needs above their own and nurture their marriages. Local churches can commission their members for value creation in all domains of work.
Three: As we engage (tearfully) in military action, we fight to win without reducing our ethics to the dastardly ones of our opponents. We limit civilian casualties as best we can – yet we cannot tie the hands of troops with actionable intelligence. This will be very difficult, but necessary if we desire victory in hearts as well as military success.
The hardest parts of this conflict are the intractable attitudes of our enemies and the long, patient actions needed for victory. This is why character matters. Zealots cannotultimately win if met with greater moral/spiritual as well as military/political forces. Onlytrue humility can forge this better future.
Global lovers of liberty face an implacable enemy that believes that they are destined to subjugate the world in the name of Islam. Yes, most of our Muslim neighbors reject this intolerant and violent ideology, but their religion has no reforming stream powerful enough to counter the dedication of both Shi’ite and Sunni radicals.
It is up to people of conscience – of all faiths or none – to rally wisely with the future of freedom at stake.
In the USA, the Left and Right are both failing is their responses. Here are some reflections to create a different kind of dialogue:
Compassion and strength are not opposites.
Resisting ISIS, Hamas, Al-Qaeda will require both.
Without losing our values, we can devise military and political resistance that is more than an occasional foray.
I challenge the Left to realize that there are millions of folks – not economically deprived and oppressed – that want our destruction. “Love and peace” banners are not enough. Wishing away the hatred of those dedicated to our demise will not make it so.
I challenge the Right to end jingoism and offer strategic ideas for alliances and long-term effective action. We must not descend to the level of the enemies we face. It is possible to love our enemies even as we resist their hatred and violence.
I challenge oil-rich Islamic nations to welcome millions of refugees in the name of their hospitable religion. A Silicon Valley Imam recently agreed with me that given the wealth of many Islamic nations, there should not be a single Muslim living in poverty.
“Can’t we all just get along?”
Sometimes the answer is a tragic, “No.”
But Christ offers a divine, “Yes!” to all who repent…and that is our greatest “weapon” – gospel love and truth that transcends culture, ideology and national interests.