Beloved People of God,
This month we celebrate the national holiday-the 4th of July-in which continues to be one of the greatest experiments in human history. Those who gave their lives and imaginations for the birthing of this country thought of themselves as partners with God. This is not to say that they were all Christians. Many were, some however, were Deists-most notably Thomas Jefferson. But this grand experiment that would eventually be named the United States of America was understood, from its very beginning, as a great partnership between God and human beings.
Freedom compelled many of the first immigrants to this country to make that arduous and dangerous journey. For some, it was about freedom of religion. Most European nations had adopted a particular expression of the Christian faith as their national denomination. The early Puritans did not fit the Anglican mold and sought a place where they, along with Quakers and other dissenters, could freely worship as they chose. For others, it was the allure of self-determination. This was the possibility that a person could discover their own future. They would not be locked out of opportunities by virtue of birth or classism. For others, freedom of speech was a great hope.
However, not everyone came to this country of their own volition. And, in fact, were brought here through force and violence. Henry Louis
Gates Jr. shares in The Root, “Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America. (1.8 million died in the journey.) And how many of these 10.7 million Africans were shipped directly to North America? Only about 388,000. That’s right: a tiny percentage.” But slavery would grow to include over 4 million of God’s children and the impact slavery has had is beyond measure.
One of the great components of those who created this nation was the realization that, by its very nature, this is an ongoing experiment that can realize errors, confess sins, repent, and work toward a better reality for all. Legislation to recognize June 19, or "Juneteenth," as a federal holiday passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives Wednesday, June 16, 2021. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate the prior day.
The bill recognizes June 19, 1865, the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned slavery was ended, as a public holiday. President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation had freed all enslaved African Americans in rebel states two and a half years earlier.
I believe this is a step forward as we strive to align our priorities with the Kingdom of God in which God desires for all of us to be free and to celebrate our freedoms. But I’m aware that there are those who wonder why we may need a holiday like this or a month like Pride month, in which I am writing this letter.
If you have such questions, I invite you to read Pastor Fritz Wiese’s letter entitled, “Word from Wiese.” Fritz is a longtime friend and colle