Celebrating our Country

July 4 is a time to celebrate our country and the things that made it great. It will be a day of fireworks, parades, parties, picnics, and speeches. I believe it’s incredibly important that we learn to celebrate the values that maintain our freedom, and do so in a principled and consistent way. Too often freedom means permission to do whatever one wants, without consideration for the freedom of others.

So I’d like to suggest some ways to celebrate the 4th of July in deeds as well as in words, sort of like a July version of New Year’s resolutions.

Let’s try to:

  • Celebrate and support our troops, but also be careful to make sure that our politicians use them effectively and appropriately. As a veteran myself, I have always believed that a functioning democracy needs a non-political military to carry out the policy of the civilian government. The most important thing you can do for the soldiers is to see to it that the government uses them appropriately, allocates adequate finances to support them, pays them appropriately, trains them well, and provides them with effective command. Don’t stop sending letters. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop writing.
  • Be effective citizens. Get to know about all the candidates you will have to vote for or against, and all the issues. Don’t be guided by political slogans. Study it out for yourself, and then vote. In 2004, only 60% of the voters turned out in a presidential election that was decided by less than 3% (statistics from the United States Election Project). In 2002 without a presidential election, the turnout was just under 40% of eligible voters. That’s not patriotism; that’s apathy.
  • Be more interested in what our symbols stand for than in the symbols themselves.
  • Become educated about what makes our nation work and what is happening to our freedom on a daily basis. Learn and do!
  • Be ready to fight, but also have the courage to forgive and to make peace.
  • Find a way to accommodate people who are different than you are, instead of demanding that they become more like you.

Perhaps I could summarize with a national goal similar to what Paul suggested to the believers in Philippi: Don’t look just after your own interests but look after the interests of others (Philippians 2:4).

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