A July 4th Moment

I was walking hand in hand with one of my granddaughters on the beach yesterday. We were hatching grand plans to construct a sand castle together. On the way to the beach we passed a lot of flags and other July 4th trimmings, and my granddaughter asked me, “What is July 4th about, anyway?”

Truth be told, I wasn’t exactly “in the July 4 spirit,” if there is such a thing. It felt hard for me to do anything other than lament yesterday, watching what is happening in this country … a great reversion or great regression, you might say, the 2016-2018 moral counterpart of the great economic recession of 2008.

Believing that a child’s question is a sacred thing, I told her about the Declaration of Independence, and she, an avid learner, summarized what I said. “So basically, July 4th is celebrating when those guys said they wanted to have their own country and not be colonies of England.”

“That’s it,” I said. But I couldn’t let that be the whole story. “They said that all men are created equal, which was a good start. But unfortunately, when they said ‘all people,’ they didn’t really mean all people.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“The men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, only thought that white people were equal.”

“What do you mean?” she asked again.

I realized that the concept of “white” hadn’t yet colonized her mind.

“The thought only men with light-colored skin like them were equal. They thought it was OK to steal the land of the beautiful brown-skinned native people who were here first, and they thought it was OK to enslave the wonderful black-skinned people they kidnapped from Africa.”

“That was so unfair!” she said.

“That’s what it was,” I agreed. “That’s why we have to work really hard to be sure America is better in the future that it has been in the past, so that in the new America, all people are treated with …”

She finished my sentence: “Kindness.”

“That’s it,” I said.

My granddaughter is half European (I want to avoid using the racial term “white” in the future – believing that whiteness itself is a polluted construct). Her other half is Korean, and even though I don’t think she has any real concept yet of whiteness, raciality or bi-raciality, I do think she is being formed in the mindset, not of the old racist America, but of a new America with liberty and justice for all.

My granddaughter gives me hope.

Yes, America’s history is racist. No honest or rational person could question that fact. And yes, American’s present is racist too, with America’s current president and his sycophantic Congress proclaiming their nostalgia for that racist time.

And yes, sadly, a lot of the festivities yesterday celebrated that nostalgia.

And yes, Max Boot, a conservative commentator, spoke truly of the Republican Party today (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/max-boot-democrat-midterm-takeover_us_5b3d7b35e4b09e4a8b29d1cb), when he said:

“Now it’s a white-nationalist party with a conservative fringe… The current GOP still has a few resemblances to the party of old — it still cuts taxes and supports conservative judges. But a vote for the GOP in November is also a vote for egregious obstruction of justice, rampant conflicts of interest, the demonization of minorities, the debasement of political discourse, the alienation of America’s allies, the end of free trade and the appeasement of dictators.”

All that is true. And it can’t be denied.

But it’s not the whole truth.


My granddaughter represents a possible future for America that we can encourage and tend.

The future can be different.

It can.


If you want to charge up your hope in that better future today, I hope you’ll invest 32 minutes in this sermon by my friend Otis Moss III.

This is, in short, one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard.

Check out “This is America, But Don’t Lose Hope.”

Otis exegetes Matthew 25 alongside a video by Childish Gambino. I promise you – you’ll be glad you listened from start to end.

We have lots of packed churches. But how many impact churches will we have in the years ahead?