The Blog of Gordon Pruitt the Pastor of St. Matthew's United Methodist Church in Richmond Virginia

Thursday, July 03, 2008

4th of July

Here is a devotion from my friend and mentor Rev. Dennis Dorsh about the 4th of July. Enjoy.

More thoughts on the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. Refer to Matthew 23:23-39, preferably in the NRSV or the New Jerusalem Bible. American history and the history of God’s people are not the same. We Americans are usually not aware that for several hundred years, the British considered that they were the people of the New Jerusalem, indeed, that they were the new People of God, the new Israel. At the time of the American Revolution, that thinking was held by many of the British people who populated the American colonies, and after the Revolution, that thinking began to grow. The whole notion of “manifest destiny” was an extension of that type of thinking.
The Christian Church does not view the American Revolution as a major event in the life of the church. Jesus, in Matthew 23, was speaking of ancient prophets and not of the heroes of the Revolutionary War, but his words may well apply to our celebration of their achievement.

John Adams wrote to his beloved wife Abigail on July 3, 1776, after the Congress voted to pass the Declaration of Independence [we switched the celebration to the day of the signing rather than the day of approval]:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.”

Frederick Douglass wrote (about 1855):
“What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parades and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

James Madison weighed in with the comment: “The most common and durable source of faction has been the various and unequal distribution of property."

And, for today at least, a final comment by theologian Krister Stendahl:

“The Sermon on the Mount is actually a rebellious manifesto which gives to disciples of Christ the right to break the Law in the name of Christ. But it is important to remember that it is subversive, and that the disciple must be prepared to pay the price for such action…The license…can only be appropriated in faith, and will always threaten the equilibrium of God’s created world.”

Yours & His,


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