I was recently invited by the Dean of Liverpool to blog on prayerforliverpool.com on the theme of American Independence Day. I’d like to share this blog with the readers of this blog as well. To see the post on Prayer for Liverpool, Liverpool Cathedral’s prayer blog during lockdown, look here: https://www.prayerforliverpool.org/blog/on-july-fourth-reflection-by-nelson-of-the-tsedaqah-community.
On July 4th, 1776, a group of British subjects got together in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to sign a document they’d spent many hours debating we know as “The Declaration of Independence.” They were doing something quite radical: employing rational thought to justify their taking up arms against the British crown and declaring themselves independent from its rule. The document they signed reads,
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
The signers had high hopes for the country they were envisioning:
“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.”
But perhaps now more than ever, this vision of the United States is aspirational at best. Full equality has yet to be realized, yet to be won in the United States, for all who are created equal. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has brought to public attention the inequalities and abuses afforded Black Americans by white supremacy knit into the fabric of the United States. Americans have been systematically and intentionally denied the rights, endowed by their Creator, that are theirs unalienably.
There were slaveholders among the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson, who drafted much of the Declaration, was a famous slaveholder who fathered many children with female slaves. Even George Washington didn’t release his slaves until the death of his wife. (While Washington wasn’t present at the signing, he was General of the Continental Army that was the fighting force behind the Declaration.)
The signers of a document that professed the equality of all humanity owned other human beings. And as United States, we’re still coming to terms with the fact that we were built largely by slavery. A great place to start learning about the legacy of slavery in the United States is to participate in the Virtual Pilgrimage for Racial Justice that the Church of the Heavenly Rest, an Episcopal Church in the US, led last week. The first video of the pilgrimage is here: https://www.facebook.com/heavenlyrest/videos/564156074490988/?eid=ARAq495gww0mVCSSrdFutXFOHQ7EnaYlNT8S8_205s295WVvPrPoFevvxA1JfMGo1jFB5Pi8TJ4tpGyR. There’s tons of literature concerning the history of racism in the US, but an accessible introduction is Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life, by Karen E. and Barbara J. Fields (It may take some hunting to find this book, but a good place to start is here: https://www.versobooks.com/books/1645-racecraft. Or, try Amazon in the UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Racecraft-Soul-Inequality-American-Life-ebook/dp/B00G2DO7OO/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr or Amazon in the US: https://www.amazon.com/Racecraft-Soul-Inequality-American-Life/dp/1781683131.
The Diocese of Liverpool has been paving the way in acknowledging the slavery-ridden past of the city and the church. To learn more, visit the Triangle of Hope website: https://thetriangleofhope.com/, the Tsedaqah Community website: https://thetriangleofhope.com/tsedaqah, and order the book, Two Triangles, by Ken Pye and Canon Malcolm Rogers that traces slavery in Liverpool to the present day and begins to look to a future marked by reparation and reconciliation. The link to the book is here: https://www.cathedralshop.com/products/two-triangles-by-ken-pye once the Cathedral shop is open again, or try here: https://www.discover-liverpool.com/publications/books/two-triangles-liverpool-slavery-and-the-church/.
I don’t celebrate July Fourth proud of everything the country of which I am a citizen has done in its past. But I will celebrate the holiday in the hope that we will actually inch closer to the dream of equality in the United States within my lifetime and beyond.
Thanks for reading this update on my missionary blog! I’m a missionary of The Episcopal Church, serving in Liverpool, UK. Make sure to subscribe at the bottom of the home page to get an email when I next post an update. God bless, and thank you!
Eager to read more? Check out the “Meet the YASCers” page of the website of the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) of the Episcopal Church to find the blogs of my missionary colleagues: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/YASC/meet-yascers.