I’ve had an interesting journey these last few years since I moved from my home of twenty-four years. Leaving home introduced me to new communities, new stories, new struggles, new understandings of God, of country, and what it means to give your life to Christ.
I began to see realities I never saw before. Whether it be immigrants, refugees, women, black lives, or Native Americans, I began to hear stories of abuse and oppression. I began to see the ugliness. This was most apparent after traveling to Africa and returning home. It was as if I had left and discovered America. I could look in at a distance and I struggled with much of what I saw and who I saw us becoming.
It’s no secret that I’ve participated in many protests these last few years. That my voice has moved towards issues of injustice. Or that I’ve struggled with the notion of patriotism and the way that nation can often trump the lives that Christ has called each of us to live (Much like Jonah).
I struggle pledging allegiance to anything other than Christ. I struggle singing a National Anthem about bombing others when I hold human life as sacred as I do. But make no mistake, I do love this country. I love the idea of this country. My patriotism lies within the belief that if we can put it together here, we truly can be the beacon on a hill for the entire world. And I love that with every generation we’ve evolved into a deeper understanding of our humanity and fought to end the injustices of our past. This is a beautiful thing that is constantly happening in America. Every time the dignity and humanity of others is threatened or harmed, citizens of this nation stand up and fight back. As I’ve said before “American” is perhaps the most inclusive word in the world.
Perhaps the greatest pride I’ve felt for this country came just a few months ago as I attended the opening day celebration of the new Smithsonian documenting African American History and Culture. Listening to speeches from President Obama, President Bush, and John Lewis. On our Nation’s Mall, we share the honest story of the harshness we are capable of. We share to the world the depths that we fell to. But we also get to share the beauty and the triumph of a people facing that belly of darkness.
As we face the dark belly of division plaguing our nation, I pray that we could find new life in the continued triumph over darkness. In genuine freedom displayed in the story of the Christian Gospel. It is for freedom that we have been set free! May we continue to bring freedom to those facing the slavery of our Nation’s sins. May we liberate those who are still held down by broken systems both here and abroad. May we lift those whose backs we stood on to raise ourselves. As I heard Bono share the other week, we will find common ground seeking higher ground.
Humanity reaches beyond our imaginary borders. My patriotism is in this pursuit. America is the diverse world united. A nation sought to pursue and protect the equality of all men. A refuge for the fragments of the world. An opportunity for those who dream. A platform for the needed prophets. And to me, this idea, and this hope is first found in the Kingdom of God. And although we are a nation often broken by pride, narrow-mindedness and indifference, I celebrate the possibility and the freedom and the chance of having this nation look like God’s Kingdom.
That we could be a nation that blesses God’s creation.
And so I will celebrate that hope.