In America today we have a dilemma. We are living with the painful contradiction between our ideals as Americans that stand juxtaposed against the deep injustices and inequalities that the nation is stuck in. Our ideals—the essential dignity of the individual human being, the fundamental equality of all men, women and children who have inalienable rights to freedom, justice, and a fair opportunity—represent to us the essential meaning of the nation’s early struggle for independence. Our ideals are rooted in the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Striving to achieve these ideals is our tradition.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Abraham Lincoln
Martin Luther King, Jr., called it “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir…we cannot walk alone…” King goes on to describe the American dream (our tradition), not in terms of economic success, but rather in terms of equality of opportunity and justice. “The American dream [represents] the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage…carrying our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”
We are a pluralistic democracy, with human rights for all. That is our strength—e pluribus unum—out of many peoples, races, religions, languages, and ancestries has emerged a single people and nation, with a shared tradition to the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
As believers and followers of the way of Jesus, we should easily connect this tradition to our Judeo-Christian, faith-based tradition—a great tradition that empowers our best selves as a people—working together in community, dominated by the themes of liberty, equality (or the right to life and basic justice for all), and human dignity for all people.
We need to continually examine our traditions, as well as other traditions, in light of current realities and situations articulating what is right and wrong, and which traditions we will promote and pursue and how we apply them to current choices. We may need to repent of some of our traditions that we find in conflict with the teachings of Jesus. As follower of Jesus, we need love, grace, wisdom and courage to do this while at the same time promoting the common good.*
Humility and repentance is the only path forward…(Dietrich Boenhoffer)…[Then] your ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:18, 21 NLT)
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” (James 1:5-8 NLT)
Thoughts informed by A Thicker Jesus.