The Common Good

Just Jesus and an Unjust July 4: Why I Don't Celebrate Independence Day

My friends and I can be stupid. Add explosives to the equation and the idiocy quotient increases exponentially. Such was the case every 4th of July during high school. A group of about 20 of my friends and I would get together to barbecue and play with illegal fireworks. At any unsuspected moment while taking a bite out of a burger, an M-80 could be lit under your seat, a sparkler thrown at your chest like a dart, or a mortar could be shot like a bazooka, catching bushes on fire. These chaotically stupid memories simultaneously serve as some of the most fun I can recall experiencing. So for me, Independence Day equals fun.

NYC Fourth of July, 2009 - 16photo © 2009 Ed Yourdon | more info (via: Wylio)

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However, there's a deeper reality to this holiday. Only about three years ago did I realize that in celebrating Independence Day, I'm also glorifying the roots on which this nation was founded: an unjust war. The "rockets red glare" and "the bombs bursting in air" remind us not of the day God liberated the colonies, but of the moment in history when our forefathers stole the rhetoric of God from authentic Christianity to justify killing fellow Christians. There's two reasons I'm convinced that celebrating Independence Day celebrates an unjust war.

First, nonviolence was normative prior to Constantine. However, even if you believe that there are moments when violence is justifiable by classical "just war" criteria, the Revolutionary War does not meet those standards. [1] Consider this summary: "Wars, to be just, must be fought under established governments, they must restore justice or preserve peace, they must be a last resort after exhausting peaceful means to solve a conflict, and they must be fought with the minimum of violence necessary and with proper safeguards for noncombatants." [2]

The Declaration states that "when a long train of abuses and usurpations

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