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One of the hallmarks of the month of July is Independence Day. The Fourth of July is the annual celebration of the passage of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. It is a day that we recall those initial actions taken to obtain freedom from the tyranny and interference of Britain. Many spend the day having family gatherings, attending parades, concerts, sporting events, listening to speeches and/or watching fireworks. There is an emphasis on red, white and blue, the American flag, and those who have fought and continue to fight for freedom.
During this celebratory season, I also hold in tension a saying of Maya Angelou, “The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free.” While we celebrate the liberties and freedoms many of us have, there are many among us who have restricted freedom. There are members of our human family who are unable to walk the street safely without being harassed or in fear of losing their lives. There are members of our human family who do not have the resources that they need to survive, much less to thrive. There are members of our family who have been and are treated as outsiders, as if they do not belong and are not welcome. There are members of our family who are literally un-free as they are behind bars for having received unjust sentences and/or have been wrongly convicted and have had decades of their lives taken away from them for crimes they did not commit. We cannot sit/stand by and revel in our freedom while others are in literal or figurative bondage. In the words of a great songwriter, “We who (truly) believe in freedom cannot rest... until it comes for EVERYONE!”
This season is calling us to be freedom fighters, people who are engaged in a resistance movement against oppressive systems. I imagine when one sees the words freedom fighters, one might initially think of those who worked in the fight for civil rights (circa 1950s and 60s). While we are more than a half century from that time, we are called to take up the mantle and continue the work for civil rights in this present time. We are responsible for educating ourselves: learn about the experiences others in the world are having; read books and watch films that educate us and guide us on how to be present for one another. Have a conversation with someone who does not look and think like you. We are also called, where able, to take action; reach out to local leaders to advocate for policies that foster equity, participate in community gatherings that support the disruption of systems that do not support the thriving of all and have courageous conversations with family members and friends.
In the Declaration of Independence we find these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Thankfully, our freedom is not in a document that was ratified 245 years ago, written by white men for white men. Christ makes us all free. Women and men are created in God’s image and likeness. Christ came that we might have life and life more abundantly. We can experience happiness through loving and serving God. As Jesus’ disciples, we are called to work for a world where there is truly liberty and justice for ALL.