An Alternative July Fourth Celebration | Sojourners

An Alternative July Fourth Celebration


'Twas truly a gift to be at the 25th anniversary of the Cornerstone Festival, hosted by our friends at Jesus People USA. It was a mighty fine line-up of presenters--folks like William Cavanough, Mimi Haddad, Jonathan Case, Miroslav Volf, Jim Fitz, and the Christian Peacemaker Teams (oh, and some fine bands too). We especially enjoyed the company of our new friends Karen Sloan and Anthony Smith. Anthony had all kinds of insights to share about how our little campaign speaks into (and draws from) the historic black church. In fact, his session was on what it means to be "A Blues People," and what the blues and negro spirituals teach us about lament and hope. Anthony said our presentation was "all about the Blues"--probably one of the greatest compliments we've had, especially as we work to communicate the radical politics of Christ across all barriers of race and class.

We followed up the Psalters' one-hour show with Jesus for President. It was fun to be in a big-top circus tent, sort of reminiscent of the old time revivals. We had to sacrifice the powerpoint, but we made up for it with a great intermission show with all sorts of friends, including our brother Aaron Weiss from mewithoutyou. And it was the fourth of July, so we had a little surprise at the end.

Near the end of the presentation we emphasized how we, as a Church, have a new calendar with new holidays, not just the festivals of the Caesars. Our social body was born, not on July 4, but on Pentecost. Our heroes are not just kings and presidents and war heroes ... but they are the heroes of the Church--the martyrs, the saints, all those women and men who have embodied love, grace, and the goodness of God in this world. Chris explained that the word "vote" comes from the same root as the words "devotion" or "votive." Many folks light votive candles to remember the little lives that have lit up the world with grace. So as we remembered the heroes and sheroes of the Church, we lit up about 600 sparklers--a peculiar little way to celebrate the fourth of July.

After the smoke cleared, we were met with the usual cloud of folks wanting to talk (which we genuinely love and find very fruitful) ... and through all the faces, we noticed our friend Jesse near the back with tears running down his face. Jesse is the young man whose story we tell in the book and in the tour-show--a young man who felt God didn't want him to carry a gun, and he left the army to follow Jesus. With tears streaming, he thanked us for sharing his story. And we thanked him for allowing us to share it--a beautiful reminder to the hundreds of other soldiers who feel the same collision, that they are not alone. It is folks like Jesse that have helped create our alternatives to military resource--Centurion's Purse--one of our little experiments of political imagination as we try to build an Army of Conscientious Objectors and Peacemakers.

Shane Claiborne is the author of Jesus for President, a Red Letter Christian, and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia.