Things that Pass Away: A Reflection on Our Nation’s Birthday

Today is unlike any other Sunday in the church year.  It is the Sunday on which we acknowledge the birthday of our nation, which we celebrated Thursday last.  It is easy to overdo or underdo this day.  “Give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, but give to God that which is God’s,”[i] after all, and on this particular day we’re never entirely sure which is which.  I once attended an Independence Day church service during which uniformed soldiers at arms marched in procession and the American flag preceded the cross.  The patriotic fervor of guns and grenades around the altar of God crosses a dangerous line, it seems to me.  I have attended other such services in which no mention of the nation’s birth was made at all.  The readings, the hymns, the prayers self-consciously ignored July the Fourth.  That seems to me to pretend we live in a world in which our religious lives and our civic lives do not intersect, which is the height of folly.

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