Tomorrow is the 4th of July. I will spend most of the day with family and friends, but there's something I need to do first. I need to open the annual flag raising service with prayer.
I am not the best candidate for leading the prayer. I don't believe the Revolutionary War was a holy war, I don't believe most of the founders would be considered Christian, I am nearly a pacifist in my understanding of force and how it should be applied, and I don't believe that the United States has ever been a Christian nation (nor that the US is a special part of God's plan). I have a deep and profound respect for all those who wear the uniform of the armed and emergency services, and would never besmirch their sacrifice for the sake of others. And yet... I also question the ease and willingness with which those young souls can be thrown into combat and have serious reservations about the narratives used to justify such sacrifice. I am glad to be a citizen of the United States, and realize that my citizenship makes me complicit in the sins of commission and omission of the nation. Thus, every year (five years running), this day is... complicated for me.
And yet, every year, I stand before the crowd and pray. I am filled with neither jaded cynicism or bitterness, nor bright-eyed idealism. I pray for the country as I pray for the world, for justice in the face of injustice, love in the face of hate.
I do it because I believe the Church in the United States is in desperate need of renewal- not to the values of the Founders, nor so that the US can prosper, but because we are called to be the light of the world. I believe that the Church has a prophetic role in every sphere, including the public spheres, in which we can be light in the world. I believe that authentic prayer is an invitation to the experience of God, and that if one person is transformed, a community and nation can be transformed. And so I will pray. That's why I'm doing it.