Americans see Independence Day as one of the three significant holidays of the summer.
But it brings with it the dangers of injuries from fireworks. These injuries can be quite serious.
Yet, there is an unrecognized danger… and challenge!
Independence Day falls in the category of a “dangerous memory”.
Johann Metz offers insights. “Dangerous memories are not nostalgia or visions of the past, but “memories which make demands on us” in the present. Such memories are ones “that we have to take into account, memories, as it were, with a future content.“
What inspired our struggle for independence?
Some may be surprised to learn that a major source was the biblical Exodus.
America’s founders often compared Britain’s King George to the oppressive Pharaoh in their struggle for independence.
The quotation on the face of our Liberty Bell reads:
“Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof.” This was a command given to Moses while at Mount Sinai. Leviticus 25:10
The Bible was part of the cultural air breathed in the colonies at the time, and gave definition and content to the aspirations of our founders.
Exodus and the civil rights movement
No freedom struggles invoked more parallels and references to the Exodus than the abolitionist and subsequent civil rights movements in the United States. Harriet Tubman adopted the alias Moses on the Underground Railroad. Abraham Lincoln was eulogized as a modern Moses for freeing the slaves. Martin Luther King Jr. invoked Moses on the night before he was killed.
In a frightening irony, the Bibles used by some to preach to these slaves early in the 19th century conveniently removed all references to the Exodus.
They were deemed too dangerous to introduce to the minds of slaves – they might dream of freedom and revolt. Therefore, the first 19 chapters of the Book of Exodus were removed from “the slaves bible.”
American Values today
From the tarmac in the Detroit Airport in 1987, St. John Paul II reminded Americans of their values
America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take towards the human person. The ultimate test of your greatness in the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones.
All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person:
– feeding the poor and welcoming refugees;
– reinforcing the social fabric of this nation;
– promoting the true advancement of women;
– securing the rights of minorities;
– pursuing disarmament, while guaranteeing legitimate defense;
all this will succeed only if respect for life and its protection by the law is granted to every human being from conception until natural death.
How are we doing?
Today, America is conflicted about its values, whether the means of educating its children, the right to bear or ban arms, the protection of its vast lands, lakes, and air, or the relationship between the states and the federal government, restrictions on who can vote, the right to life and, even the very nature of truth.
The liturgy of the Eucharist on Independence Day reminds us of the dangerous memory of the Exodus and the Last Supper.
“(Christ’s) message took form in the vision of our founding fathers as they fashioned a nation where we might live as one. His message lives on in our midst as our task for today and a promise for tomorrow.” (Eucharistic Preface)
It hardly seems that we have finished the task.
Is Independence Day a “dangerous memory” for you?
- Why not?
Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk