A few thoughtful blog posts have been written recently concerning the American Independence celebrated on July 4th here, and often uncritically embraced by some of the more conservative American churches. All of the following blogs (most written by facebook friends) are written by American Christians who are somewhat critical of Nativism and uber-patriotism (none of them, as far as I can tell, would be described as a radical or America-hater, except by those on the far-right I suppose):
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.
1) American colonists had the world’s highest standard of living in 1776. Not much economic suppression there.
2) The rallying call of “no taxation without representation” ignores the fact that the vast majority of the English at the time did not meet the property requirements for voting. Even John Wesley opposed the war on these grounds, pointing out that not even he could vote.
3) The media’s reporting of most of the events leading up to the war was sensational at best. Take the “Boston Massacre” as an interesting case study. One of our key Founding Fathers and future presidents, John Adams, agreed that the “massacre” was provoked by drunk Americans and was no massacre but was self-defense, as evidenced in the legal defense and acquittal he provided for those soldiers despite the personal fear he had over the negative impact it’d have upon his political ambitions.
And a (sort-of) reply by Scot McKnight: For July 4th, a (set of) thought(s)
1. The most critical of celebrating July 4th on Sunday are progressive evangelicals and liberals.
2. The defining characteristic of progressive evangelicals and liberals is justice.
3. Celebrating freedom and release from oppression and reveling in the achievement of peace and justice are God-directed in the Bible.
I think the critics are missing a great opportunity.
So, let’s turn the day into a universal celebration of justice. Let’s not hear about muskets and the British Crown and Boston; let’s hear about the importance of peace and justice and that God wants us to live justly.