This month, we celebrate America's independence from Great Britain, a statement of intention more than fact when it was signed in 1776. As with every other year, there will be an orgy of nationalist excess, a “white- washing” of our legacy of racism and genocide.
But there is room to celebrate, even for progressives, and a deep connection to our own theological heritage in the Congregational and United Church of Christ traditions.
While wealthy white men created an America designed to preserve the power of wealthy white men, even that was a radical idea at the time. The previous three centuries had seen the rise of the modern nation-state, the invention of (mostly) secular governance, and the parallel reformation of Christianity in Western Europe. The result, though imperfect, was the notion that the individual should be mostly free, and that together people would make decisions for the common good. This applied to both the nascent American democracy and the equally new “congregational” polity of the New England churches. It can be messy at times, but it is usually better than the alternatives.
Congregationalism is not, of course, our faith. It is no more than a method. Our faith is in the goodness of God, the experience of God in the person of Jesus, and our call to live into a radical love and justice in the world. We decide together how we can best act as agents of restoration and reconciliation. Our aim is thriving, both for all other humans, and for this amazing planet, teeming with miracles, geodes and jellyfish.
Far too many believe that thriving is a zero-sum game, that if others thrive, they cannot. This is not true, scientifically or theologically. Our task is to love bigger than their fear. And that, right there, is revolutionary.
The Rev. J. Gary Brinn