Today is Independence Day.
Yesterday, in our Lutheran church service, we prayed for the nation. We thanked God for our freedoms. We prayed for humility and for a nation that serves God’s will. All good. We prayed hard and long for those who have preserved our nation’s freedom and prosperity–those in the armed forces.
But it seemed to me that, once again, something was missing: prayers for non military who have worked and sacrificed to fight for justice and liberty.
I consider myself patriotic. I get tears in my eyes thinking about how blessed we have been as a nation. And I certainly get emotional thinking about people like my best friend, Louis Warner, who died fighting in Vietnam, and my uncle Glen, who died in the Battle of the Bulge near the end of WWII.
But I also believe the United States is a strong and wondrous nation because the weak and marginal of the world have a chance here. It is strong because bullies have not been able to act like gods or demons and trample on the rights of others to speak up. It is strong because when it was weak and when it was wrong there were people who were willing to take a stand against all popular opinion and fight for good things.
The key text for this day is our nation’s Declaration of Independence. We should not forget that the signers of that document had to put themselves on the line. They did so with the words, “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Those were not soldiers who played this key role in protecting liberties. They were civilians. They were politicians. They were business people.
There is so much need for churches to be willing to take a stand today. Patriotism is fine. Praying for the troops is wonderful. But what about conscientious objectors of history? What about the daring diplomats of our age? What about the poets and playwrights who light candles in the dark? What about social workers working thanklessly in the inner cities? What about reporters who risk their wealth and sacred honors to ferret out the truth when others are determined to hide it? What about the mothers who can’t see the logic of war and who must tend to the wounded when they come home and weep for those who never return?
What about praying for ALL the peacemakers and liberty-preservers, especially when they are voices crying in the wilderness?
It is risky to offer up such prayers. Yet such prayers would surely be in the spirit of the Lord who calls us to repentance.
Such prayers would certainly make my Independence Day Weekend complete.