Fourth of July Considered

by Molly Bosch

I will be honest. I was feeling a bit nervous about writing for the fourth of July. For days, I have gone back and forth in my head thinking things like, “Maybe I just ignore talking about it altogether and focus on the psalm.” Then I would respond to myself, “Don’t ignore this. The true work of faith and spirituality is to make space to challenge the topics that make you most uncomfortable.”  Through prayerful reflection of today’s passage from the First Letter of John, I believe God is inviting me to respond to the disconnect that not only I, but a multitude of citizens and non-citizens in this nation, feel about this holiday. 

My earliest memories of the Fourth of July are happy ones – little hands sticky with juice from popsicles while sitting on the beach with my father building a campfire before fireworks start, laughing while letting sparklers fly with my sister, and jumping into warm lakes under a bright sun. As a child, I was protected from the deep nuances of the existential question of what it means to actually declare pride in living in the so-called “Land of the Free,” while simultaneously battling with the fact that the political state of that land does not mean freedom for a many of its inhabitants. Every nation has its walls – whether physical or metaphorical – that allow for the people within those walls to feel a sense of belonging, with those on the outside to feel excluded. So, I am not stating that the United States is the only nation that has created such a nuance; however, I am focusing on this nation in this piece, because today is the day where we dig a bit deeper when we declare this is a space of freedom, liberty, and is a united “one Nation under God.” 

As a Christian woman, I have struggled with outwardly and proudly declaring my faith. This is not because I am ashamed to be Christian; rather it is because Christianity has taken on a negative light in the political sphere and the media. As I embraced the first steps of womanhood and moved from the shelter of education to the real world of being a community-health nurse, I was slapped in the face with the reality of the harm some “Christians” have caused to others in this country. I watched my very first patients, detained by ICE, trying to become citizens, only to have food benefits cut off. I would read the news to hear of people loudly and regularly backing up their harsh political ideology by stating that it as being inherited from his Christian faith. I would observe men on the streets with big signs denouncing the LGBTQ+ community and holding tragic signs of bloody fetuses while shouting the name of Jesus and stating that these proclamations were rooted in Christ. I would speak with women suffering from addiction and captured by the sex trade, observing that they were “too unclean” to be associated with houses of worship. 

This has been too much for me to comprehend. Have we forgotten as a nation that Jesus Christ himself spent hours accompanying adulterers, beggars, the sick, the lonely, and the forgotten? Never once did we see Christ or His Followers share their prophecy in a way that denounced other communities and excluded others based on arbitrary margins of purity and one’s human idea of perfection. In today’s passage from the First Letter of John, he warns us: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). 

In this “One Nation under God,” I believe it is our duty as true followers of Christ to consider acts of violence and exclusion in the name of our faith and take John’s warning to heart. When we see acts of discrimination, isolation, and we hear violent rhetoric in the streets that is associated with the name of God, we must truly question are these spirits from God, or is this a false prophet convincing me that this is the voice of the one who saves? 

The passage ends by examining the interpretation of prophecy by stating, “From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:6). I must say that in my 27 years of living in this country, I have seen both spirits of truth and goodness and a spirits of harm and error, especially when it comes to the most marginalized among us. While I am grateful to live in a place with so much opportunity, as a young Christian woman, I must also constantly push back on the communities in my nation that pronounce a misinterpretation of Christ and use His message in circumstances that create walls instead of open doors. 

May this day be a day of Holy Observation – an observation of the ways Christianity has created beauty in our communities as well as the ways that we can heal the Divide in the political rhetoric around what it means to follow Jesus in our cultural context. My prayer is that true liberty, true freedom, and true union may one day abound amongst ALL of us – tax collectors, sinners, prophets, rich, poor, hungry, filled, tired, healthy, and sick. May we one day all find equitable justice, peace, and love and may it be under the name of a God who unites. 

And with this: AMEN. 

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