In the last few weeks, I have had the same conversation with two different adolescents. They had both been to our diocesan children’s and youth camp program, “Mega Camp” in early June, then gone to other overnight camps later in the summer. In both cases, the youth in question shared with me that their experiences of community and peer interaction were significantly better at the diocesan camp than at the secular one.
No small part of this is because of the intentional, faithful, and skilled manner in which the staff and volunteers at Mega Camp endeavor to create a community modeled after the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the implicit shared connection these youth feel being among fellow Christians (and the odd non-Christian guest). We have an outstanding youth ministry program at a diocesan level that we should be thankful for.
But this segue ways for me into my reflections on the observance of Independence Day as a nation, a community, and the Church. On a personal level, being part of a family in which one of the adults is not only a veteran but also a musician means we will be patriotically observing the holiday at a concert performed by the American Legion Band of Kansas City, and being a family with children means we will be doubtlessly watching fireworks later.
But as a Christian I can prophetically look at our nation and say, “we could be better as a people.” We could be kinder. We could be more just, and fair. More tolerant of diversity. More patient. More sensitive to how we treat our natural resources. More thoughtful about how we care for the disadvantaged, the sick, and our children, to just name a few. And to anyone who suggests that these observations mean I do not love this country I would suggest that they look at their own loving relationships: family, friends, and God. Accountability, honesty, and trust are integral parts of loving relationships, and I can care about and feel pride in what this nation can do and be and still hold it accountable for its shortcomings. In fact, I must for that very reason.
Because our children understand (as the aforementioned conversations can attest) that a community made up of people whose lives are informed by faith, intentionally reinforced by good leaders, and who share a vision of what God wants us to be has merit. I’m not arguing for a theocracy (I’d be the LAST person who would want that). But I am saying that at a person-to-person level, bringing your discipleship of love into your life in a real, tangible way makes you a better neighbor. And good neighbors make good neighborhoods. And good neighborhoods make a great nation. And we all want that on the Fourth of July.
Yours in Christ,