“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
These words, the very first found in the Declaration of Independence, are not restricted to Men or to Americans – they refer to all people, everywhere and for all time. These rights are imbedded in Creation itself.
This is a fascinating concept – to agree that all have the right to life – and that this right is primary. If this is a right that I maintain for myself – do I not have an obligation to recognize that same right in all others, without regard to race, religion, nationality, ethnic background, intellectual capacity, or sexuality? It seems that this right is found in the Gospel – when Jesus teaches his disciples to treat others as they would want to be treated. If you or I would not want to be a slave, how can we possibly approve of slavery?
As a culture, we have worshipped guns and warfare from the beginning – in contradiction to the above beautiful words and the words of the Gospel. Movies and books have glorified war and violence against all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. We as a nation formed by doing our best to eliminate the indigenous peoples already living here in the name of Manifest Destiny; we then drove the Mexicans from what is now Texas, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. The good guys were the John Wayne characters, always fighting and destroying the bad guys. Slavery was allowed and even financed by northern bankers. When slavery was finally made illegal, racial segregation was enforced with lynchings and the deprivation of rights.
We as followers of Jesus, and the values taught by the Christ and made public in our declaration of independence have been tough to live – what we say is not always what we do. Give me your tired, your poor – are beautiful and meaningful words, and then we want to build walls to keep others out. Our ideals and values that stem from the Torah and from the teachings of the Christ – are most difficult to embrace in action. In our humanity, we are somewhat schizoid – we are torn between our values and ideals – and our fears of death and separation – fear of the other that we find threatening to our way of life that we are used to.
It is good once in awhile to remind ourselves of the higher values and ideals that we proclaim to be our foundation. We can make our national myth into a god that reflects our worst nature, or to worship the God of creation – and to recognize that we are connected and are in need of one another. That Spirit of God exists within each and every person; within every stone and every plant; all that exists is holy and sacred – a reflection of the God that breathed and life came forth – that became incarnate in human flesh – and became one with creation – calling us to become one – the living body and blood of the Christ.