Tag Archives: exile

J. Thomas’s Sermons – 1 Peter Series


Embracing Exile (1 Peter 1:1) 06/30/13


Embracing Election Part 1 (1 Peter 1:2a) 07/14/13


Embracing Election Part 2 (1 Peter 1:2b) 07/21/13


Embracing God’s Purpose in Election (1 Peter 1:2c) 07/28/13


Embracing the Power & the Peril of God’s Protection (1 Peter 1:3-9) 08/04/13


Embracing Kenosis Part 1 (1 Peter 1:10 – 2:3)


Embracing Kenosis Part 2 (1 Peter 1:10 – 2:3)


Embracing Kenosis Part 3 (1 Peter 1:10 – 2:3)


Embracing Priesthood Part 1 (1 Peter 2:4-10)


Embracing Priesthood Part 2 (1 Peter 2:4-10)


Embracing Priesthood Part 3 (1 Peter 2:4-10)


Embracing Submission Part 1 (1 Peter 2:11 – 3:12)


Embracing Submission Part 2 (1 Peter 2:11 – 3:12)


Embracing Submission Part 3 (1 Peter 2:11 – 3:12)


Embracing Sacrifice Part 1 (1 Peter 3:13 – 5:14)


Embracing Sacrifice Part 2 (1 Peter 3:13-5:11)


Embracing Sacrifice Part 3 (1 Peter 4:12 – 5:11)

Should American Christians Celebrate the 4th of July?

American Flag…because they had shed blood in the land…

Should American Christians Celebrate the 4th of July?

Amongst my own friends and colleagues, it seems inevitable that the 4th of July will instigate a series of debates regarding the appropriateness of celebrating American independence for Christians.  Was the American Revolution a just war?  Is there ever a Christian justification for violence?  Are we trying to mingle Christian faith with American patriotism?  Are the basic suppositions of America’s so-called “Founding Fathers” consistent with Jesus’ teachings and example?  Anybody else engaged in these conversations again this week?

In all truthfulness, I am deeply invested in these debates myself, and I am sympathetic to those who wrestle with the appropriateness of this or any holiday observance.  For instance, I have been persuaded that, irrespective of the theory of just war that one adopts, the American Revolutionary War doesn’t pass the stink test.  With respect to the question of non-violence, I tend to believe that individual Christians are called to follow the examples of Jesus and His Apostles, whereas nations would be best advised to follow a version of the moral/ethical and civil guidelines given to the ancient Israelites at Mount Sinai.  The question of violence or non-violence, it seems to me, is influenced powerfully by the covenantal context in which it is asked.  I, too, am concerned that American Christians often mingle American ideals and philosophies with Christian faith uncritically.   And, I am less convinced of the thoroughgoing Christian commitments of many of our “Founding Fathers” than some of my Christian sisters and brothers.

However, I fail to see how an evaluation of the merits of the American revolt against British rule has anything whatsoever to do with celebrating the 4th of July today.  The 4th of July has become a day to celebrate the good in the United States, and for many of us it provides an opportunity to express our deep thankfulness for the national context in which we now find ourselves.  The question of origins is not an unimportant one essentially.  But, it should not be used to disqualify Christians from expressing their gratitude for America.

Some years ago a friend of mine named Richard Liantonio (who writes a fabulous blog, by the way, entitled On the Road to Emmaus) introduced me to a logical fallacy called the genetic fallacy.  The genetic fallacy attempts to disqualify a person or thing based solely on origins without respect to his, her, or its current context or merits.   A sound argument must engage with the merits of a contrary position.  But, the genetic fallacy attempts to circumvent the issue by making the argument that fruit, no matter how appealing, is tainted by its roots.

We see the genetic fallacy displayed consistently in political discourse.  But, however sophisticated or reasonable it may appear at times, in the end the genetic fallacy is a simplistic schoolyard end-run around reason.  I can remember two classmates arguing in the fourth or fifth grade about something or other.  Eventually the argument came to an abrupt halt when the first one, who was the child of a doctor, proclaimed, “Well, your father’s a janitor, so who cares what you think?!”  Ah, the genetic fallacy at its finest.

An argument may have merit irrespective of its origins, and the same may be said of a person or a holiday, as well.  In fact, it seems strange for Christians to argue that the origins of a thing should disqualify the contemporary celebration of its results.  After all, as Christians we sing praises to God for Jesus’ death on the cross routinely.

Now the origin of Jesus’ death for us is rooted in a long, sad, and frightful history of human sinfulness, corruption, oppression, aggression, exploitation, and general despicableness.  But, the fact that the cross has been rooted in such evil, does not disqualify Christians from celebrating the new life that God has offered to us in the person of Jesus.  Christians are quite correct, in my opinion, to thank God for the cross.  After all, thanking God for the cross does not at the same time justify or dismiss the human evil that precipitated His death for us.

Similarly, I believe that, as Christians, we can celebrate our national context without at the same time justifying all the decisions and events which led to its formation.  Christians are resident aliens among the nations of the earth, and we will remain as exiles among the nations until Jesus returns.  As Jeremiah instructed the Israelite exiles to Babylon so many centuries ago, perhaps we, too, might be instructed:

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.[1]

There may be reason for Christians not to celebrate the 4th of July.  However, let’s agree that the question of American origins may be the least important to consider as we wrestle to embody Jesus in our current national context.

J. Thomas

If this blog interested you, you might also enjoy J. Thomas’s

Reflecting on Our Commemoration of September 11, 2001

[1] The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Je 29:7.