Tuesday, September 13, 2016
That City Upon A Hill...
With all that has been happening in our country, the United States... the shootings in Dallas, the nationwide protests... the social tensions that plague us as a nation... I have felt the need to look back at what we are about as a nation. To return to its beginnings. To try and remember why we are here in the first place... why we exist as a nation. And that brings me back to what John Winthrop called us in A Model on Christian Charity. We are intended to be “That city upon a hill”, but are we? Have we really ever lived up to our calling?
When Winthrop used that phrase, he was referring to the gospel of Matthew. The full quote from Matthew 5:14-16 reads:
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven”.
It was Winthrop's prayer that this nation would be a beacon of light to the world. A place were people could come and hear the Good News. A place were people could practice their Christian faith freely, without persecution from the state. A place where the individual could be a self-made man (or woman), free from the rigid social constraints of class conscience Europe. A place where you could own land and the government couldn't confiscate or occupy it at will (hence the 3rd amendment which came later). A place where all men could be free to live a quiet and peaceable life. This unfortunately is not the America we live in today.
This year, in the month of July alone, There were at least 5 black women killed in police custody and according to the website, “Mapping Police Violence.com, there were at least 102 unarmed African Americans killed in police violence in 2015. That's approximately 2 a week. I don't believe this is the America Winthrop envisioned and it certainly isn't the land of the free or the home of the brave where we can all live a “quite and peaceable life”. [1Timothy 2:2]
Now I will be the first to admit, that not all of our Founding Fathers were as progressive as the document they wrote, which states 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. ” There were some that didn't believe that the Africans they enslaved were human at all, which is one of the reasons we had a three fifths compromise... a compromise which violated the spirit of our Constitution... a compromise which never should have been made and unfortunately, a compromise we are still feeling the repercussions of. In God's economy, no one is three fifths God's creation... or three fifths his son or daughter and Christ did not die for three fifths of a soul or three fifths of the people, but “God so loved the WORLD (all of it and everyone in it) that He gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever that believes on Him shall not parish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16]
Now this is not the first time we as a nation, have had problems living up to our better selves. Unfortunately, it took a civil war to correct the error of the three fifths compromise. It took the civil rights movement to correct the error of Jim Crow and the real question is what will it take to right our course in the current dark night of our nation's soul? One good thing about all of the turmoil we are currently experiencing is that it is bringing the poison of racism (and hopefully all the other “isms”) to light, so that we can be, once and for all purged of it and the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, so that we can truly be that shining city on a hill Winthrop envisioned.