By Tony Magliano
A birthday is naturally a time to celebrate the God-given gift of life – the past year, as well as all the years the Almighty has blessed each of us with.
A birthday also presents each of us with an ideal opportunity to honestly and humbly assess where we are in life. It’s a time to prayerfully discern in what direction is God calling us to go in?
And as it is with each of our individual birthdays, so too it is with our nation’s birthday.
As Americans know, July 4 is the birthday of the United States. And most people living in the U.S. have much to celebrate. For example, the Bill of Rights which enshrines basic human freedoms of religion, speech, the press, peaceful assembly and the liberty to petition the government over grievances are model qualities in a nation.
But in the midst of celebration, we would be wise to also pay attention to the other side of the coin.
Such slogans as “My country right or wrong” and “America love it or leave it” are not patriotic; in truth they hurt the health of the United States. Americans who espouse such feelings ignore the nation’s many critical ills.
If a loved-one has a serious addiction, would it be wise and loving to say my spouse or sister, teenage son or best friend is totally fine and healthy, and thus ignore their addiction? Of course not!
And so likewise it is with one’s country.
Americans who truly love the U.S., and people of every nation who truly love their country, will honestly and maturely identify the ills of the nation and strive to treat those sicknesses with loving life-giving remedies that help all people to be well – in body, mind and soul.
In a nation and world that in so many ways flows against the Gospel of Jesus Christ, faithful disciples must be countercultural!
We need to tirelessly urge the U.S. and other nations to create the political, economic, cultural and spiritual conditions where abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, the death penalty, racism, poverty, hunger, unsafe drinking water, homelessness, unavailable health care, poor education, unemployment/underemployment, illicit drug use, climate change/global warming, weapons manufacturing, the arms trade, war preparation, waging wars and callousness toward migrants and refugees no longer exist.
And instead, we need to urgently develop national and international policies and social conditions which comprehensively nurture social justice, peace and love for all people – born and unborn – as well as for the common earth-home we all share.
Twelve years ago I had the great privilege of interviewing the late courageous peace-activist Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. With penetrating wisdom he said, “We must ask ourselves are we Christians who happen to be Americans, or are we Americans who happen to be Christian?” This is a crucial question! A crucial question for our salvation and for the salvation of our nation. And it is a question which is equally applicable to Christians in every nation.
So, what really matters to you? Having a “patriotism” that is blind to the ills of the nation, or a faith in Christ and the advancement of the kingdom of God on earth?
Do we allow political, economic and cultural beliefs to trump the Good News of Jesus? Or in a turbulent world, is the Gospel the rock-solid foundation upon which you and I stand?
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.