Celebrations around the Fourth of July are a wonderful opportunity to remember what our country stands for and the great ideals that Americans have sought. It is a time to remember our men and women in military service and to appreciate the freedoms we have won, as well as the ongoing struggle for freedoms not yet achieved. For me, the Fourth of July is a time for both faith and patriotism.
In recent months, I’ve heard a lot of talk about patriotism. However, much of this talk has been about what is considered unpatriotic= Questioning the war in Iraq, for example, is considered by many to be unpatriotic.
I’ve also heard a lot of talk about faith. Likewise, much of this talk has been about some Americans – including people of faith – being considered unfaithful for opposing government displays of religion
These are not the measures of patriotism or faith that I value. In fact, my own views are quite the opposite.
I am Presbyterian—and so a strong example of patriotism and faith in my religious heritage is John Witherspoon. Few Americans know that Witherspoon was the only clergy person to sign the Declaration of Independence. As a person of faith and as a patriot, he put his life at risk for the birth of our country. If John Witherspoon and other brave men and women had not challenged the unjust reign of King George, America, with her glorious promise of freedom and opportunity, might never have been born.
In my view, it is the essence of patriotism to question authority and to exercise freedom responsibly and in the context of community.
It is patriotic to encourage vibrant civil discourse with divergent opinions and diverse points of view.
It is patriotic to tackle tough questions and not shy away from difficult answers.
Finally, it is patriotic to protect the rights of our fellow citizens and residents of this country as fervently as we protect our own.
The Witherspoon Society in the Presbyterian Church USA and its colleague organization Semper Reformanda claim the motto, "Reformed and always being reformed."
That is how I think of myself as an American – always striving for that "more perfect union." I hope that you will consider these views and perhaps set aside some time in the coming days to think and pray for our country, for our soldiers in conflict, for all men, women and children in harm’s way, and for peace in the world.
Marco Grimaldo is director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative of the Center for American Progress.