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The Fourth of July: A Day of Mourning? By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, July 03, 2008


Should Christians mourn on July 4, given what a disaster the United States has been for the world? Much of the Religious Left thinks so!

Undoubtedly speaking for many left-wing seminary faculty and clergy, Ted Smith of Vanderbilt University penned an editorial for this month’s Christian Century magazine called: “The Fourth of July: How Does a Christian Celebrate?”

The answer from Smith is: very carefully, if at all. He recalls the early misgivings he had about Independence Day when he was a young staffer at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs in 1989. The horror of it all smacked him like a hot skillet.

“We were training death squads to terrorize people in El Salvador, selling weapons to Iran to fund a revolution against the democratically elected government of Nicaragua, trading freely with an apartheid-dominated South Africa, and propping up a vicious dictator in Iraq named Saddam Hussein. And that was just our foreign policy.”

Smith’s memories are darkly stained by his far left ideology. His recollection of “death squads” refers to successful U.S. support for the elected, Christian Democratic regime in El Salvador, which was attempting to survive against a Soviet-supported Marxist insurgency. His recollection of U.S. weapons sales to Iran was a misbegotten attempt to bolster Iranian “moderates” and free U.S. hostages in Lebanon. His citation of the “democratically elected” regime in Nicaragua refers to the Marxist Sandinistas, who seized and retained power at the point of a gun. His memory of U.S. trade with Apartheid era South Africa does not include the partial U.S. sanctions imposed n 1986, nor the fact that by 1989, under newly elected President Frederik De Klerk, Apartheid was already crumbling. By “propping up” Saddam Hussein, he means that the U.S., along with other Western and Arab countries, tilted towards Iraq against the Ayatollah’s Iran, whose war with Iraq had ended in 1988, thanks partly to the U.S. naval presence in the Persian Gulf.

Note that Smith, in his historical review, omits any mention of the most historically significant event of 1989: the collapse of the Soviet Union’s occupation of Eastern Europe after 44 years, thanks partly to U.S. perseverance during the Cold War.

Smith goes on to describe the nightmares at home in America: “We had millions—millions!—of people with unlivable housing or no housing at all. Some of them came to the patio of the bar [where Smith had a part time job during his State Department stint] and asked for food. A crack epidemic raged. The president had won the election in large part by playing on white Americans' fears of African-American men and promising to get tough. It is tempting to blame one party or one politician for these failings. But the years since that summer have made clear just how deeply and widely they are woven into the life of our nation.”

In fact, while Smith remembers only homelessness, a favorite media preoccupation during the Reagan years, by 1989, the U.S. had had 6 years of robust economic growth, falling unemployment and reduced poverty. His recall of a supposedly racist election refers presumably to television ads about the furloughing of killer/rapist Willie Horton that an independent agency ran to benefit the campaign of George H.W. Bush against Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.

“This was not the nation I had marched for as a child,” Smith somberly remembers. “Instead of shining like a city on a hill, we were acting in ways that could not survive disclosure. Forgetting our faith that all people are created equal, we were undertaking policies that sought to widen and legitimate inequalities of many kinds.” By 1996, convinced that the founding ideals of the U.S. intrinsically perpetuated “inequality,” Smith stoically refused to celebrate Independence Day altogether: “I celebrated the Fourth like a Puritan of the old school celebrated Christmas: I went about my business as conspicuously as I could. I prayed for the country and then did my daily work as pastor. I questioned not just whether the U.S. was living up to its ideals, but whether those ideals were worth living up to at all. I still do.”

Smith recounts, later in 2003, when asked by Emory University to advise on whether or how the 4th of July might be celebrated, he realized that “we cannot invent new lives that are completely outside of or apart from this nation.” He told the Emory students that he would “love my country like I love my family—as that which has been given to me to nurture, chastise, wrestle with, care for, raise up, suffer beside, celebrate with, and love.” That year, Smith “tried to celebrate the Fourth as a chastened, realist, radical, democratic Christian.”

Thank goodness Smith gave the go ahead for Emory students to honor Independence Day! Today, he “would not want to renounce any of these celebrations of the Fourth,” or “other faithful attempts to mark this day.” What are these other “attempts”? He does not explain but suggests that “our separate stumblings through the Fourth” are a beautiful constellation that is “complex” and “plural.” Who knew that July 4th could be such a byzantine labyrinth of emotions and anxieties?

At least Smith has abandoned his full throttle boycott of American Independence Day, despite his dreadful memories of America’s crimes during the 1980’s. No doubt other, less temperate, seminary professors will grimly acknowledge the 4th of July only as a sad day of mourning for all of America’s genocides and thefts. But the vast majority of America’s Christians, unencumbered by far-left seminary indoctrinations, will robustly celebrate God’s blessing upon their nation.


Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.


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