The United States of America is – like every person we meet and any nation we study – beautiful and broken. Her history is filled with saints and sinners, imperial oppression and unprecedented liberty. As we gather around tables and express our gratitude to God and each other, here are some paradoxical facts that are part of our historical tapestry:
- The First Thanksgiving was celebrated in Plymouth with genuinely cordial relations with the local tribes. The Pilgrims owed their survival to Squanto and others that helped them gather, harvest, and hunt well.
- Just before the Pilgrims came ashore (1620), the colony of Virginia began importing African slaves for work in the tobacco fields (1619), inaugurating a history that only a Civil War and later Civil Rights Movement would change.
- Maryland and Pennsylvania were colonial havens for Roman Catholics and Quakers respectively, and both colonies promoted freedom of religion.
- Meanwhile in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, religious dissenters such as Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams were exiled or punished severely into the 1690s.
- The Methodists prohibited members from owning slaves as of 1757; alas, a century later this dynamic tradition was divided in to Northern and Southern branches…as were almost all denominations.
- Ellis Island processed millions of immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Though many faced prejudices and obstacles assimilating into a very White and Protestant America, within a few generations, most of their descendants were celebrating the opportunities the New World had to offer.
- At the same time immigrants were gazing happily at the Statue of Liberty upon their arrival in the USA, millions of Native Americans and African Americans faced continued oppression, prejudice, and legal barriers to full inclusion into American society.
The USA continues as an experiment in virtue-based liberty, with a history of hospitality and generosity as well as nativism and xenophobia. As we rightly give thanks, let’s rededicate ourselves to building a land of access, equity, and opportunity for all.
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.
Moral convictions do not mean the absence of
compassion. True toleration helps neighbors of vastly different
universes live peaceably together with love and respect. If I disagree
with someone’s beliefs or behaviors, it is not narrow-mindedness or
Can we all grow up a bit and stop labeling and libeling?
I believe unborn and newly-born children are human persons. That is a love for life, not a war on women.
I am a Christian; therefore, I disagree on some matters with my Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, or secular neighbors…who I will gladly work with to make our world a better place.
We have miles to go on gender equality and racial injustice. I do not need to hate myself or “shut up”, however.
I think ethical free enterprise is better than centralized socialism. This does not mean I reject a safety net or concern for the environment. I want America to lead the world in hospitality for immigrants…and secure the borders and reform her policies.
As a minister, I will only consecrate heterosexual, monogamous marriages. That does not mean I will not be a good neighbor to adults that organize life differently. As an academic, I enjoy presenting all sides of important issues. Truth can stand the test of opposing arguments.
The moment we label and libel, we end the search for wisdom and reveal fear of “the other.”
We must want for all others the liberties that we enjoy.
We need you as an inclusive, principled party, ready to debate and pass laws that benefit all Americans. Alas, your radical wing is obsessed with Trump and mandates that can never be funded.
You desperately need to recover the best of FDR-Truman-Kennedy-Humphrey if you are going to welcome many back in the fold.
Here are some tips:
Stop hating moderate to conservative Jews and Christians for their views on marriage and morality. If you welcome even more conservative Muslims, why exclude other principled religious adherents?
Demonstrate fiscal responsibility and bring a budget that leads toward less debt.
Agitation, protest and resistance are easy compared with governing. Clean out the corruption at the city and state level. Stop the class envy and offer economic policies that foster private-public partnerships. Be leaders of racial reconciliation, not the catalysts of more animosity.
Simplify the tax code, with special concern for those who are struggling. Hyper-progressive tax laws hurt the economy. Welcome pro-life social moderates back. End the campaign finance hypocrisy. You love “dark” money just as much as your opponents.
Welcome immigrants and create pathways to citizenship with reasonable security and the end of registering non-citizens.
Friends, we need civil debate and proximate justice.