It's wild how easily we get sidetracked from Holy days by holidays, and how quickly we can smother our central identity in Christ with other identities such as our national identity. The Fourth of July is one of those holidays that is a little tricky for those of us who are Christian, these peculiar people of God whose kingdom is "not of this world." While we want to celebrate the many freedoms and opportunities we have in these United States, we also want to be people that are honest about history, who lament the places where our country and government and founding fathers have fallen short of God's Dream. .. so without being a real prude or "anti-American" stick-in-the-mud, we want to try to remember the history of this country well on July 4 (and every day) -- the good and the bad. That doesn't mean we can't have some serious fun on July 4. We might as well take advantage of the chance to be with neighbors and family, to have work off and play in fire hydrants (at least on my block). But above all, we want to remember that our deepest allegiance and identity run deeper than nation. And that may take some creativity to remember with all the fireworks popping and national anthems playing.
Many of us have created alternative Fourth of July celebrations like many people do on Halloween, to make sure we teach our kids truth and Jesus. Don't get me wrong -- as Jesus' people we need to be people who know how to celebrate and party. It's just that our fireworks may be a little different; they may happen on Pentecost. And our heroes are not war heroes, but heroes of the Cross, folks who have died as Jesus did, loving their enemies. We want to remember that our Bible does not say "God so loved America," but that "God so loved the world".
I have some friends who have put together some brilliant ideas for ways of celebrating the Fourth of July as a day of Inter-dependence. After all, as people of rebirth independence seems to be a very counter-gospel value, but interdependence -- interdependence on God and one another, this idea that we are not alone in the world -- that is at the heart of the Story from which we come, the story that began long before America.
40 Ways to Celebrate Our Interdependence
40. Go to a place where people are gathered and offer free hugs to all.
39. Babysit someone else's children.
38. Pray the Lord's Prayer and commit to one concrete action to live out each part.
37. Find a local place where you can build a public sculpture (church, community garden, etc). Get your neighbors to donate one piece of junk that they do not want, and work together to build a meaningful sculpture out of these materials