The America We Need — July 4, 2020
Today, on July 4th, it is clear that The America We Need is not the one we live in today. Amidst a global pandemic and growing social unrest, The America We Need is not cloaked in the colors of red, white and blue, nor found in the charred aroma that will linger after we light fireworks tonight. It is not to be found in the verses of “The Star Spangled Banner” or “America The Beautiful”, and it cannot be discovered when recalling and glorifying the events found in our history books.
When confronted with the truth that our nation has a history of valuing some people over others, The America We Need must humbly admit fault where we’ve made mistakes and have failed to live up to our expressed values.
The America We Need must come from a vision—seen in the distance, but not yet experienced—of what our nation could be in the future.
The America We Need must affirm the value of every person who lives among us. It must seek to understand and empathize with our neighbors—both those who are like us and those who are different—and not sink to acting out of fear of “the other”. Where relationships across lines of difference are fractured, The America We Need must seek reconciliation and healing rather than reverting to name-calling and denial.
The America We Need will require humility and gentleness where there has been arrogance and ignorance. It will mean saying “I’m sorry” and “Help me understand”. It will require change both at the individual level and the collective level. It will mean setting aside our individual needs at times so that we can focus on meeting the needs of others. It will mean being open-handed with our resources and being willing to share what God has given to each of us.
The America We Need will require owning up to the fact that we have grossly failed at building a society where all people—regardless of race, socioeconomic status or legal status—are listened to, heard and given the respect they deserve as children of God.
The America We Need must repent for our complicity in establishing and participating in systems that unjustly prioritize some people over others. It must call to account those of us who have consciously or unconsciously judged another person by his or her skin color, ethnicity, religion or spoken language.
The America We Need must acknowledge the truth that much of the wealth and prosperity that our country enjoys today was built on the foundation that enslaved people of African and Caribbean descent (and later immigrants from poorer countries seeking better lives for their children) laid with their hundreds of years of free or cheap labor. And we must admit and repent over the difficult truth that our nation’s Christians have historically found themselves on the wrong side of history when it comes to the work of seeking justice and acknowledging the God-given value of people from marginalized groups.
The America We Need must shout from the rooftops that Black Lives Matter and Immigrant Lives Matter—not because it’s political, but because it’s true. It must work to repair the lack of trust between black and brown people and the police officers who serve them, and it must hold accountable those who fail in fulfilling their duty to protect and serve.
The America We Need must be willing to dramatically widen our doors and expand our understanding of who can be called a “real American” and who cannot. It must accept the truth that America in 25, 50 or 100 years will not be a nation made up of mostly white people, but a pluralistic nation of people representing countless races, ethnicities, countries of origin and religions.
The America We Need will be incredibly hard to bring about. We are a nation made up of over 300 million people with a history of 250 years doing things a certain way, so our missteps cannot be easily undone in months, years or even decades. But we must continue to work for it, for it is too important not to try. The cost of not doing so and risking further division is far greater than the cost of changing course now and pursuing restoration.
Lastly, The America We Need will require Love. A Love far greater than we might think is necessary, or even possible. A Love that Paul describes in his letter to early followers of Christ in the Greek city of Corinth, inviting us to commit to “A Love that does not give up. A Love that cares more for others than for self. A Love that doesn’t strut or have a swelled head. A Love that isn’t always ‘me first’ and doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. A Love that takes pleasure in the flowering of truth and puts up with anything.”
“A Love that trusts God always, looks for the best, never looks back and keeps going until the end.”
This is The America We Need. On this Independence Day, perhaps the Lord would invite us to look closely at our nation’s history and honestly ask ourselves whether or not we’ve succeeded in creating a country that allows all of us (and not just those of us in the majority) to live, thrive, pursue happiness and be free. And if the answer is no, maybe God would invite us to repent and commit to taking steps—individual and collective—that move us closer to making that vision reality.
But we must not lose hope that The America We Need can never be The America We Have. Paul’s words from two thousand years ago resonate deeply today as we work for and look forward to a world that God makes right, just and complete:
“But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”
The America We Need is not one that we live in today. But we can work to make it one that ourselves and our children live in tomorrow.
That is what I choose to hope for on this July 4th—the future hope of Liberty and Justice for All.