Everything I’ve read on the internet in the last few days can be summarized in one of five ways:
1) From the most loving, accepting, tolerant people ever in the history of ever: “HA! HA! #LoveWins! In your face, everyone who has different morals from me! Plus, you’re idiots to think that this is some slippery-slope moment that will lead to the complete breakdown of American society. Now, where do I file a lawsuit to force a pastor to marry me to my toaster oven?”
2) From optimistic conservatives: “Oh, well, lots of other places have gay marriage, and they’re doing just fine. Maybe this will help America to achieve the kind of global leadership position of countries like Denmark and Portugal.”
3) From pessimistic conservatives: “Get a lawyer. Get all the lawyers. Get them now.”
4) From optimistic Christians: “You know, historically the church has thrived in times of persecution. (Followed by ten paragraphs of looking back nostalgically at the reign of Nero.)”
5) From pessimistic Christians: “There are no windows in my family’s underground bunker, so someone please send me a text when the rivers turn to blood and the moon crashes into the earth.”
Needless to say, it’s been a bit depressing. We’re in a weird place as a country. And then I looked up and it was Independence Day.
It feels different. I have vague childhood memories of the end of the Carter presidency, and they bubbled to the surface today. There were a lot of people at that time — a lot of Americans — who thought that America was over. The country would go on as a political entity, but the mom-and-pop, apple pie, world war winning America was a thing of the past.
A lot of people feel that way today. The difference is, a lot of them are happy about it. They’re working hard to end that Yankee Doodle Dandy America and turn it into something else.
So, I look at the fireworks and the giant flags stretched across baseball diamonds, and I think, “What are we celebrating now, anyway?”
Whatever you think about the direction that America is taking now, consider this bit from the Federalist’s post, “5 Times Christians Saved America’s Bacon“:
1. Settling here in the first place
Let’s not forget that the U.S. was colonized by Pilgrims seeking religious freedom from the oppressive Church of England. These settlers were way better at creating a stable community than previous counterparts (cough, Jamestown, cough) because they were in it for the long haul, and treated each other with respect. The Mayflower Compact, which every family aboard the Mayflower signed before setting foot on American soil, established tenants of mutual respect and freedom, for the sake of serving God. American exceptionalism was born from the Pilgrim’s desire to establish a “city upon a hill,” a beacon of Christian fortitude and charity to others. The phrase has been oft repeated, and its sentiments have shaped the American ideal of a successful community.
I’m unaware of any countries that have been founded by people seeking sexual liberation. Although, if they’re out there, I bet they don’t smell too good.
I do know of a country that was founded and built by people seeking religious freedom, however. And everyone here who’s agitating for every other kind of “right” — be it health care or minimum wage or gay marriage or whatever — is standing on the shoulders of those people, the people who risked everything and bore every kind of hardship so they could be free to live their faith.
If we’re to the point where we think we can toss religious rights aside in favor of newer, better, more fun rights, then maybe it really is over. We clearly don’t have an understanding of the raw material that went into building the country. But a lot of people still celebrated this 4th. I hope that most of them were celebrating the substance of American greatness and not just the perks.