And even as I have grown, I still revel in this one holiday with a child-like giddiness. This giddiness prompts me to post photos on Facebook that, to some may seem semi-irreverent, but to me are a healthy counter-balance to the attitude that this is "God's country" and the world's last great hope for heaven on earth.
Pictures like this... ...and this...
But I certainly don't want to downplay my genuine thankfulness for my country, and as I reflected on that today, three specific reasons came to mind (obviously shaped by recent events in the news):
- I am thankful for our religious freedom. Yes, for all the panicking about trends that portend frightening shifts in this very freedom, it cannot be denied that we still live in one of the most religiously free countries in the world, and for that I am extremely grateful. And I am equally grateful for my neighbor's freedom to practice Mormonism, Scientology, and even the faith-tenets of atheism. It is within this melting pot of free religious ideas that we find ourselves equally free to proclaim a gospel that is the only form of true freedom.
- I am thankful for a judicial system that demonstrates God's common grace. Again, while we may bemoan the trajectory that our highest courts seem to be trending, I am thankful that we have leaders who sometimes (event often?) get it right—if not always for the right reasons. I am thankful for the system of checks and balances that keeps any one of our branches of government from running roughshod over it's people.
- I am thankful for our freedom of speech. There is a reason that America is the #1 exporter of Christian written and printed materials. Our pulpits are free, our publishers are free, our blogs are free. We live in a place that has resisted at least the more overt forms of censorship that we see in other countries. Indeed, based on the heated debates I've witnessed recently in the public square (i.e. Facebook), I can wholeheartedly declare free speech to be alive and well! But may I plead with all my fellow Christians, this freedom is not a license to fight verbal fire with fire. While our friends, neighbors, and co-workers may suffer from a sort of "John McClane of the mouth"—shoot first, ask questions after everyone's dead—we have a freedom of a higher sort. And that freedom ought to be the filter through which all our other freedoms are checked and balanced.
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:16-17 ESV)