This weekend, we will celebrate the birth of a nation. On July 4, 1776, a coalition of colonies came together to declare their independence from a monarchy that understood the existence of the colonies as a supplier of the needs and desires of the empire with little concern about the welfare of the colonists. The foundation of this belief of rights and dignity for all was firmly rooted in the divine mandate that the Creator has endowed all of humanity with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In many ways, it reminds me of present situations where we too often view the purpose of other nations as a supplier of oil, cheap goods and labor for a western empire of first world nations and corporate profit. In our celebrations of a day of great courage, it might be a wise course to consider the possibility of a declaration of independence from those who serve this new western empire delineated not by national boundaries but profit and loss reports. Such a perspective might serve to draw criticism as a preacher or a church involves itself in affairs of politics, finance or some other arena in which it is presently unwelcomed. One criticism I often hear is, “Get your own house in order before you begin criticizing someone else.” It is a valid issue. How can the Church urge nations and ethnic groups to work toward peace and unity when we ourselves remain divided and at intellectual war with each other?
I have always appreciated the insight of Michael Kinnamon, a Disciple of Christ ecumenist and scholar, when he proposed that the church is not divided, rather, the church has failed to recognize the unity God has already given the Body of Christ. Philosophically, I couldn’t agree more. However, practically, we know we have much work still left to do, whether it is in an effort to recognize our unity or repent from our practical division. One of the founders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Alexander Campbell, proposed that the failure to redress inequity among nations or ethnic groups with a commitment to peace fragments the Church and disgraces its Lord. The underlying assumption is staggering. A fragmented Church disgraces the Lord? Yes.
The Church is called to be a sign of the state of peace and wholeness to which God has called all of creation. Alexander Campbell wrote, “the beatitudes of Christ are not pronounced on patriots, heroes, and conquerors, bit on ‘peacemakers’ on whom is conferred the highest rank and title in the universe: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the [children] of God.’”
I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I am a citizen of the United States of America. I am a Christian American. I will always declare that because of the Creator’s sovereign will, the vision of this nation and the benefits of a democratic republic are worth celebrating. Can we, with authority, proclaim to a hyper individualistic culture that believes the Church is merely a gathering of individuals and not a manifestation of the Body of Christ, that to continue divided disgraces Christ? As a Christian, we must.
Celebrate the birth of a nation this weekend. Celebrate the near universal recognition of human rights that served to move a nation through conflict and into a vision for peace and justice for all of creation. Covenant to not only philosophically recognize the unity of Church but to pragmatically work toward it, not just so that we may speak to the world with authority but that Christ will be glorified.