This post also appeared on My Big Jesus.
When I realized my regular day to write here was the 4th of July, I considered asking the editor for the day off. I wasn’t sure I could appropriately write about the holiday, but it felt wrong to write about something different that day. Luckily for me, I had an experience at church yesterday morning that changed my mind.
I co-lead worship at a video venue on campus at my church. We meet in the fellowship hall, upstairs from the main sanctuary. The worship pastor asked the other leader and me to come downstairs at a certain time to sing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in honor of the 4th of July. I won’t lie- we dragged our feet a bit. It’s hard to work out timing, and it might have felt a little outdated to sing a song that’s hardly a hymn but not exactly the national anthem, either.
But when I stood up there with the group, mostly comprised of folks my parents’ age and older, and began singing the song I knew well but hadn’t heard in years, I was surprised by what I felt. The men in the group sang the first verse, and that was all it took to get me a little teary. Their strong and proud voices, raised in a song that meant more to them than country or God, alone; it meant both.
The congregation immediately got into it, some singing, some clapping, some raising their hands. As I looked out over the sanctuary, my own voice matching the pride the others had portrayed, I was surprised and thrilled to see every group of people – young, old, indeed, every soul in the room! – smiling proudly, staying engaged, and singing along.
I was reminded that patriotism often means something different to my generation (millenials, if that’s where you’d place my 30-year-old self). Patriotism to them seems not to be pride in a country that your loved ones has fought for. It’s not even taking a part in choosing your lawmakers and representation. In fact, to many it just means wearing American flag-printed bathing suits, shooting off fireworks, drinking Bud Light from a can with stars and bars on it, and shouting, “‘Merica!” as you jump in the lake.
I’m not saying those things are wrong; I do them myself. But to let your love and appreciation of America stop there is very wrong. Instead of celebrating the 4th of Jupy, celebrate Independence Day, and the history and meaning behind it. Do your research, and go vote. Thank a veteran. Have your grandparents tell you a few stories, because I bet they served in some capacity during a war, even if t wasn’t in battle. Truly see the pride of the generation or two above you, and ask them why they celebrate and sing. I guarantee they will provoke some thought and maybe even open your eyes to a different kind of love for America. You might even become a patriot yourself, one who wants to do your part to keep America the land of the free, and the home of the brave.