Going to seminary in Boston was wonderful. Living on the North Shore was exhilarating with its historic towns of Salem, Rockport, Gloucester, Ipswich, Marblehead and Swampscott. The sea air wisped throughout the campus. The ocean froze in the winter with floes left behind as the tide went up and down. The seafood was superb!
Boston proper was utopia. Cambridge and Harvard Square were Mecca’s for free thought and expression. The place exuded intelligence in an unobtrusive air. Boston’s sites were so historic and more than quaint: Old North Church, Bunker Hill, the U.S.S. Constitution; Fenway Park; Copley Square; Paul Revere’s home; Park Street Church, Filene’s Bargain Basement, “Cheers,” and Quincy Market located next to Faneuil Hall: the cradle of liberty and the Boston Tea Party.
Cindy and I will never forget staying in the home of members of the Boston Pops. Part of what makes the Fourth of July so special to us is listening to the Pops play Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” “Pops Goes the Fourth” on PBS isn’t to be missed!
However, with all of New England’s patriotic fervor and sites I am reminded that the bulk of the Revolution’s cost was borne by Southerners. New England gave the American Revolution its philosophical underpinnings and treatises while Southerners fought most of its battles with South Carolina having had more Revolutionary battles than any other state. Think about the movie “The Patriot” to catch glimpses of King’s Mountain, Cowpens, Charleston, Camden, and Buford’s Massacre. Thank God for backwoodsmen and Over-the-Mountain Boys in addition to the Swamp Foxes of the Lowcountry.
July Fourth is a holiday that should rouse the weakest spirit. It is the triumph of the farmers and shopkeepers, the little people, over the high and mighty ranks of Redcoats. It is indeed “Fanfare for the Common Man” including women the likes of Betsy Ross and Molly Pitcher, African-Americans like Crispus Attucks the first martyr of the Revolution, and American Indian tribes doing their part, too. What makes America so special is our common humanity. We don’t relish elitism. We are all here because we escaped somewhere else, except for the Native Americans, and African-Americans brought here against their will. If we will but remember our shared pain, travails, and triumphs, America will yet be a beacon of hope to humanity.
All this makes me think of the little church that I’ve been passing on a regular basis. It’s located on I-77 near Winnsboro, SC. The church’s sign is a bit out of the ordinary. The name of the church is “New Independent Methodist Church.” The logo, however, is the Southern Baptist symbol which is pretty appropriate, actually. Southern Baptist churches have by-laws each unto themselves in their congregational polity. This is much too independent for my liking. As I think about Independence Day 2012 and ponder our life together as United Methodists, there’s no such thing as an independent Methodist church. We’re all connected and I’m glad! We’re a dependent denomination. We depend on God and each other!
That’s a good reminder for America, too. Indeed, as I think about who we are as Americans and United Methodists, I’m drawn to the fact that our history is a multi-colored and multi-cultured tapestry. We’re meant to be a melting pot of diversity not a salad bowl with lettuce, then cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. topped by whatever dressing in a top-down hierarchy. Our political system shouldn’t be about who’s in office or has the majority. We’re in this thing together and better not forget it!
American democracy and United Methodist connectionalism work best when they’re horizontal not vertical. What we hold in common trumps special interests any day. As for me this Fourth of July, I’m going to celebrate it as American Dependence Day. We need each other. Together we can do more! Happy Fourth! Think dependence more than indepedence!