Deans' Note July 4, 2021

The Fourth of July is here and summer is in full tilt. Fireworks, picnics, and celebrations abound during this most American of holidays, Independence Day. Values of individual freedoms, a rule of law not monarchs or despots, and free elections are all part of the framework envisioned by the founders in their hope for a novus ordo seclorum, a new order of the ages.

And yet, the limitations and failings of the system put in place in our founding documents are evident. Slavery was not abolished. Those who could vote were a small minority of the population as a whole. The myth of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny have been tools of American imperialism both on our own continent and globally.

While American ideals have been aspirational rather than realized, the vision of America as a place of equality and justice for all still remains. These ideas have their roots in the biblical vision of the prophets. We Christians in America have the vocation of holding up these ideals in the public square. And we also know that no nation on its own will ever achieve the shalom envisioned in God's dream for creation. Yet we can work within our nation to pay attention to ways we have failed and not simply critique our government and culture, but work as citizens to bring positive change.

As we celebrate this holiday. Christians must always remember that national citizenship is secondary to our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Our primary allegiance must always be to the values Jesus teaches and to the heavenly city in which earth and heaven will be joined -- on earth as it is in heaven.

So let us bless the earthly city and nation. Let's be light, and salt, and leaven as Jesus encourages us to be. And let's remember that no nation will ever be the kingdom of God on earth. The only new order for the ages will be the one God initiates at the end of history. As the words of the hymn we sing on Sunday remind us, God's word our law, God's paths our chosen way.