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On the Corner

“Glad to be an American”

by Robert Docter –

The signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776, initiated one of the greatest experiments in human history. The final results are not yet available, but so far I believe it’s working better than any other system of government. To demonstrate our unfinished status, we’re the only nation on the face of the earth whose National Anthem ends with a question.

Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Clearly–we are not a finished product. And that might just be the reason we’re the way we are. We just keep trying to improve things.
Personally, I’m proud to be an American. I like being involved with a work in process.

While the storm clouds gather far
across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land
that’s free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a common
prayer:

So wrote Irving Berlin on the eve of World War II, and opera stars and ordinary people throughout the land sang God Bless America. It’s a prayer, you see. Over this last Independence Day weekend I heard it sung many times–by soloists and large crowds. People were asked to remove their hats when singing it–almost as if it were the National Anthem–or maybe, because it was a prayer.

Rarely does the verse get sung. There’s one word in the verse that speaks worlds to me. It’s a word that kind of gets glossed over–almost ignored–as if Berlin was just looking for something to rhyme with “prayer.” You found it–the word fair.

I suppose when he wrote the song he meant us to be grateful for the opportunity to live in such an attractive land. Or maybe, he meant to build on the “storm clouds” metaphor and defined the word as “fair weather–free from storm.”

For me, I’m grateful to live in a land that tries to be fair–to treat all people alike. This concept of “fairness” has a lot to do with the notion of “justice” and equal treatment under the law. We’re still working on that one–still trying to be fair. That’s a work in process, too.

Do you pray for America?

Do you ask God to bless our land –and ask Him to help us deal with some of our incompleteness–or absence of integrity. Too often our ethic fails to match our conduct. We are far from perfect. We have the machinery to get us close, but it is operated by humans.

America is a secular nation. We do not have a national church or a national belief system. I like it that way.

Some believe this is wrong–that it is extremely unfortunate. Some take all the examples of God that are enshrined in many of our foundation documents as an indication that we are a religious society that worships God. Some even say we are a Christian nation.

Personally, I’m glad we do not have a state religion. In its place we have religious freedom. We can worship God as we choose or not at all. The troubled spots on this globe reside in nations that refuse to grant religious liberty. In each of those nations the state requires a particular religious practice and tells people how and who, when and what to worship. They dictate mankind’s relationship with God. That’s where you see internal conflict. That’s where you find countries at war with their neighbors. It seems to me peace is a product of freedom–religious and every other kind.

I’m grateful for citizenship in a land so fair that I can choose the direction and focus of my worship. That worship provides me with a choice–whether or not to establish a personal relationship with God. Having chosen to hold and maintain that relationship gives me a sense of ownership of and responsibility for my religious practice. The motivation is intrinsic to me. It pushes me to grow in depth of understanding and a tighter relationship with God.

So, thank you, God, for freedom. Even more, thank you God for trusting me to be responsible in the kinds of choices I make with that freedom.


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