The Common Good

Why Christianity and July 4th are Incompatible

I want to start out this post with two huge disclaimers: What I am about to write may sound radical or irrational to some. Also, I have a great deal of respect for those who are Christians and who 'support' the military and our troops. Those who serve our country (although I may disagree with it from my standpoint theologically) deserve respect for their sacrifices, and I am glad to have some friends who have served or are serving in the armed forces.

With all of that said, I have been struggling with the idea of the 4th of July for the past couple of years or so.

Each year we get together and remember the day when America won freedom. We reenact the story through live-action plays; we set off fireworks as a display of joy; and we sing prideful songs about our freedom from oppression. Now, here is the issue I have: No matter what position you hold in regards to being a Christian and war (I happen to hold to nonviolence), I believe we cannot justify glorifying the 'winning' of our independence from our friends across the pond. How can we celebrate that we killed thousands upon thousands of people because they were taxing us without giving us representation in parliament?

As Christians, we need to recalculate our past and allow the gospel to be critical of certain things we now celebrate. Is it honorable to kill because people don't like being taxed? I think the Jesus who says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" would probably say "No."

Church historian Mark Noll said the following in an article he wrote for Christianity Today about just war and the Revolutionary War:

During this confused misunderstanding, the Bible was used as a reservoir of images, moral principles, and types. Many sermons in America (and some in Britain) supported revolt, while a few in America and England argued against it. Serious exegesis, however, of what would seem to us like the relevant passages (such as Romans 13) was very rare. Rather, it was much more common for patriots to liken George III to Pharaoh and George Washington to Moses, or to depict the conflict as a struggle between the Woman and the Beast of Revelation 12. Patriots and Loyalists were both much more likely to add scriptural authority to political reasoning rooted in some other ideology than they were to attempt reasoning from the ground up on the basis of Scripture.

This war was not rooted in scripture but in a false political agenda. Noll reminds us of how history played itself out: "Americans fought a war to gain the kind of freedom that Canada, New Zealand, and Australia were simply given after not too many decades." Our nation, in other words, killed other Christians in order to gain independence that would have eventually been granted to them in a "just" fashion, had the founding fathers not been so trigger-happy over issues of taxation.

portrait-kurt-willems Kurt Willems is a pastor in the Mennonite Brethren movement and a seminary student at Fresno Pacific University. He blogs at Groans From Within.

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