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Reflections, July 4th 2021

I am grateful to share this space with three others today. Thank you to Pam, Karen and Spense for being willing. I continue to give thanks for the diversity of human experience we have in our church and today felt like a good day to draw upon the wisdom that comes from that. I have asked each of them to reflect on what it means to be a community of faith that is present in the public square, active in common life? Asking, what should our relationship to the nation state be? What is our role in culture? I have presented these questions in part because as I have shared, I believe this experiment that is the United States of America, our democratic republic, our innovation in a nation governed by the people is in a moment of fragility. As some of you might have already read, it turns out that some who overtook our nation’s capitol on January 6th, were motivated by scripture, a form of Christian nationalism, so this topic feels especially urgent.

I grew up in a culture rooted in the concept of American exceptionalism, which is the belief that this country, among all the nations in the world, is uniquely special, even blessed by God. The flag is a sacred symbol. The national anthem is a holy hymn. Our history is about freedom, escaping empire, this place is about being able to practice religion freely. That’s the narrative and the core story I lived with. American Exceptionalism is held by evangelical Christians and the Church of the Latter Day Saints just to name two. I really did believe that we had entered all of the wars we did, to preserve freedom, not power or profit. I held the view that we were the beacon of light and that we are leading the way for the world, but I confess that was before I learned about Tulsa and the terror of the truth of chattel slavery. That was before I knew of native children being murdered in boarding schools or of peace chiefs being massacred below their white flag. Many of the family and friends of my childhood, see kneeling for the US flag at sporting events as an affront, a sign of disrespect, but many of us have come to see it as a sort of call to prayer, in fact, an invitation to kneel and listen to what is being said, to learn and know and grow beyond where we are. I know I am not the only one who believes that whatever name we have for God, it is a Force present among all creation, among all nations, caring little for the boundaries we have carved out with our borders.

So today I am grateful to hear from the wisdom among us. How can we bring the best of who we are into the public square? Our justice and our love? How can we bring our contemplative practices and our commitments into the fear and the frenzy? In a country that needs us now- who are we called to be? “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

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