Independence

The tour guide at Independence Hall knew how to warm up the crowd. “What states have you come from to visit us here today?” “Missouri!” “New York!” “Minnesota!” We called out, mentally hi-fiving each other as we proudly called our names. Then, she shifted gears. “Who is here from another nation?” “Japan.” “Britain.” “Russia.” She stepped up to the last man and practically begged him for more. “What brought you here today?” Slowly, in halting English, the man from Russia proudly and carefully produced his words. “This is the birthplace of Freedom. This is where Freedom began.”

The previously bubbly Americans were silent and respectful the whole tour. This wasn’t just our hallowed hall, this was our gift. This was what made us a truly great nation.

On this Independence Day the birthplace of freedom stands divided as it has not been for a long time. We are at each other’s throats, fighting and scrapping for every small victory. No tour guide could shut us up and make us respectful – this is personal. What got us to this point?

We have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten our great gift. We have forsaken our soul.

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Cast in Bronze

“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
John 20:29 (NRSV)

We live in a time of great turmoil and change. Economically, socially, spiritually, and even biologically our nation is different every day. Our growing diversity should be a strength, not a weakness, if we can find ways to hold ourselves together by emphasizing the principles forged into traditions that made this nation great. But somehow, even simple decency and respect for each other often eludes us.

Why is this? I have come to believe that we have made our great principles far too intellectual, that the beliefs that should hold us together are exercises for the brain when they should be felt with every beat of our hearts. To change this we need more solid physical reminders in our every day life of who we are, as one people – because in the end we are all made as much in the image of the doubting Thomas as much as anyone.

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