Happy Fourth of July week!
On July 4, 1776, delegates to the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. The majestic words used to describe their God-given and natural right to self-determination and freedom from oppression have echoed down through history: “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.”
Let us compare those majestic words, with this simplified call to discipleship by Jesus in the Gospel, “"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Both statements call us to a life of happiness. The difference is in achieving happiness. As a country, the war of independence, enshrined violence to overthrow an unjust government and to protect a democratically elected one. Jesus, by becoming the victim of human violence, rejects the use of killing to save or alter history.
In building the kingdom, we as followers of Jesus, are to use nonviolent means to resist evil and achieve justice through selfless love. This is the very meaning of picking up our cross and following Jesus.
I came across this challenging quote, “If non-violence seems too idealistic or even mystical for the real world, then it is fair to ask the “real” world what war has ever won that diplomacy and determined appeals to justice and morality could not have gained as well. Let history judge that a different America would have emerged without bloody revolution, the forced removal of native peoples, the practice of slavery and expansionist wars against Mexico and Spain. Isn’t this the key historical question: What might we have become as a nation had nonviolence been honored as the central tenet of democracy — social change through debate and the ballot box, not by force of arms?”
What keeps us as individuals, as a nation, from resolving differences nonviolently?
In the prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.