Independence Day

Published 6:00 am Sunday, July 4, 2021

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Most Americans are aware of the cornerstone notion in our country of the separation of church and state. It is one of the defining characteristics of who we are as a nation. When contrasted with England, it was a very novel concept at the time indeed. 

However, we have seemed to struggle to walk that proverbial tightrope trying to maintain that separation. If anyone has ever visited our nation’s capital and toured the historic buildings downtown, it seems you can round a corner without seeing a building with some passage or other from the bible emblazed on the edifice. We seem to be of two minds. And if one really thinks about it, it shouldn’t be too surprising that we have struggled to walk the fine line of separation of church and state. Vast portions of our country were founded by various enclaves seeking religious freedom; from the pilgrims in Massachusetts to the French Huguenots in South Carolina. 

On the whole however, I think we’ve done a commendable job. Of course, there were times when we did it better than others. If one studies the Western European history (which is essential to study the history of Christianity), one sees patterns when church and state went from bedfellows to complete strangers. As my history professor in seminary once quipped, “Whenever the church and state were closest (he actually said “in bed together”), each were diminished significantly from their individual missions and purposes.” Regardless if you agree with that or not, history bears forth the evidence. 

As we approach the observance of our Independence Day, we do so having gone through one of the toughest years this country has seen in living memory. This year we have the hope of a joyous celebration, thanks to the prevalence of the vaccines. I propose this year, in addition to our cookouts and fireworks, we incorporate a moment of prayer and thanksgiving for our country and the resiliency it showed to make it through a very difficult time. As you wake on July Fourth and look to the day’s activities stretched out before you, be sure to set aside just a moment to pause and give thanks for this great country. By way of a start, I offer the following prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. Happy Fourth of July!

Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 757-562-4542.