It is the fourth of July.
For many Americans, it is a day to worship the greatness of America.
Somewhat surprisingly, for many Christians it is also a day to worship the greatness of America. Although, most will deny that what they do this day and what the feel about America every day is an act of worship.
On this day (as well as the Sunday before or the Sunday after in their church services), many Christians will worship America’s independence, freedom, democracy, capitalism, wealth, rule of law, flag, and, maybe most of all, the military.
Therefore, there is probably no better day to meditate on the words of Paul in Philippians 3.3-9.
“For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”
To worship America and all that it was and is is to put confidence in the flesh. All the things I listed above are things deemed to be advantages of being American. They are things that Americans glory in. But, Paul says we are to glory in Christ.
Paul counted every advantage and privilege he had as loss. The Greek word has the idea that these things should now be counted as a disadvantage, something to be penalized or punished for.
Further, Paul goes on to say he counts all these things as rubbish. The Greek word also means dung or excrement. We could take Paul as saying he counted every privilege he had as s***.
Therefore, can you, like Paul, count everything that is worshiped about America on the fourth of July as loss, rubbish, dung, excrement, s***?
Can you spend the day typically wrapped in extreme pride, patriotism, and nationalism reflecting on your privileges and advantages while reckoning them as things that are worthless and a pile of dung?
To imitate Paul in counting our privileges as loss and dung is really to imitate Jesus. Paul’s list of advantages or privileges that he counts as loss mirrors what Paul wrote about Jesus earlier in the letter to the Philippians.
Philippians 2.5-8 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. In other words, he counted every privilege and advantage of being God as loss and rubbish so that he could become a man. But, not just any man. A servant.
But, why do I specifically call out white Christians in the title of this post to count all that America was and is as loss?
Because more than anything else, whiteness is what has been worshiped in America.
Because the foundation of America was white. And, although not as obvious, the foundation of America is still white.
Blacks, native Americans, and other people of color did not, and do not, have the same benefits and privileges as whites in America.
So, many of the things Paul lists about himself can be equated to being white in America. Whites were the special people. The group, or tribe, of people set apart in America. Whites have certainly had the zeal to persecute blacks and native Americans throughout America’s history in addition to communists, Muslims, and Arabs more recently. And all the while whites have deemed themselves blameless.
To be white is the greatest privilege there is in America. Therefore, more than anything else, whites should count their whiteness and all the advantages and privileges that come with it as loss, rubbish, dung, excrement, s***.
According to Paul, it is necessary to count our supreme advantage as loss and rubbish so that we may gain Christ and be found in him. This is how Paul was able to be all things to all people that he might save some. This is how Paul, in imitation of Jesus, was able to identify with the other, the stranger, and the foreigner. This is how Paul was able to love all people.
For whites, counting whiteness as loss and rubbish is the way to be ministers of reconciliation in this land. It is the way to understanding the thoughts and feelings of many blacks and Native Americans regarding the 4th of July. Because their thoughts and feelings are often quite different about the fourth of July than the thoughts and feelings of whites.
Frederick Douglas said, “What, to the American slave, is your fourth of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” Yes, that quote is from a long time ago, but many blacks still feel the same way today.
The Declaration of Independence, shortly after it declared all men were created equal, stated, “He [the king of England] has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
Yep, the Declaration of Independence, the document of July 4, 1776, called native Americans savages.
Mark Charles, a native American, wrote about this in “The Dilemma of the Fourth of July” on www.nativenewsonline.net. He wrote:
“If the poster [of the Declaration in a restaurant he and his wife were eating in] had labeled any other group of people as “savage”, or if the source of the words was anything else besides one of our country’s founding documents, the restaurant in question would have long ago been sued and the parties responsible for hanging the poster most likely disciplined. But because the targeted group was Natives, the source was the Declaration of Independence and the responsibility for hanging the poster belonged to the restaurant’s national corporate offices; not only is the poster still hanging today, but on July 4th the entire nation will celebrate the message of this poster and the signing of this Declaration. For we have declared it a national holiday complete with fireworks, parades and speeches.
This is the dilemma that Native ‘Americans’ face every day. The foundations of the United States of America are blatantly unjust. This land was stolen. Native peoples, Africans and many other minority communities have long been recipients of systemic racism. And the roots of it are right there for the entire world to see, printed in many of our founding documents; like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and United States Supreme Court case rulings.”
And there are many other native American voices just like this one.
To truly hear these voices and to bring healing to our land, what better day for Christians than the fourth of July to count all our advantages and privileges, particularly our whiteness, as loss and rubbish.