Over the Fourth of July weekend in 1996 I went to the movies and watched Independence Day like everyone else. I wanted to see the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air save humanity and defeat the alien invasion. When I was 14 it was easy to get lost in the movie as it stirred up patriotic feelings in my heart. I fear if I watched Independence Day this holiday weekend, though, those patriotic feelings would be subdued by my cynicism.
By no means am I a political expert. There are also people far more cynical about our government than I am. Yet since I first saw aliens destroy the White House 15 years ago, my blind optimism has given way to reserved pessimism.
Which can leave me a little conflicted on the Fourth of July.
I love the United States of America. I know that I am blessed beyond belief to live in this nation. I take for granted so many things that others around the world can’t even dream of.
I’ve always had access to clean water.
I’ve never experienced extreme hunger.
My basic medical needs have always been met.
I have never worshipped in fear of persecution.
I have always thrown toilet paper in the toilet.
I have been blessed to live in the United States, but I know those blessings come with a few warts.
The past 15 years have washed away some of the naïveté of my youth. I’m able to see that while the United States is great, it’s not perfect. There is a lot of room for improvement and other people around the world are justified in their dislike of us. Obviously dislike doesn’t justify violence, but we should be open to the honest criticism of others.
For me, the United States has lost some of its sheen, but I’m still happy to celebrate its birthday. The Fourth of July isn’t just a day to watch fireworks and eat hamburgers. It’s a day to celebrate the freedom we have to worship God; it’s a day to celebrate those who have made sacrifices to ensure that freedom. It’s also a great day to reflect on the blessings we have in the United States and how Jesus wants us to be a blessing: to our neighbors, our communities and our nation.
The next time we hear someone say “God bless America” we should ask ourselves, “How can I be that blessing?”
How do you feel on Independence Day?