“Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39
Several years ago while on a road trip with one of our granddaughters we stopped in St. Louis to visit the Arch. While there I recall standing in line next to an elderly gentleman on a walker wearing a baseball cap bearing the Stars and Stripes. In a gesture to be nice I remarked to the man, “I like your cap.” Smiling back at me, this was his reply. “I still love America, don’t you?” Ironically, when that occurred I happened to be in the midst of reading a recently published book by Eric Metaxas, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty which included a chapter entitled “Loving America”.
Prior to those simultaneous experiences I’m not sure I had given much thought about loving my native America and what that means, especially in light of the widespread ideological polarization and negative political rhetoric we are exposed to today. But Lincoln believed, according to Metaxas, “that love of country is necessary, that America cannot and will not survive without it.” To do so, though, requires taking a realistic view of America as being both heroically great, yet also deeply flawed. We should, for example, feel a healthy sense of pride for the “greatest generation” who saved our country and the world from tyranny in World War II; or the courageous responders to the 9/11 attacks. By the same token America has made shameful blunders in its history, the most obvious and egregious being slavery, and the racism that plagues our culture still. As Metaxas points out, “Heroism and ignominy both are part of our history. The only question is whether, having seen both, we can repent of the one and rejoice and be inspired by the other.” Considering both, then, can we still love America?
But there’s another factor yet to be mentioned, which has to do with Jesus’ command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” America is blessed with good citizens from all over and from every walk who live out those words – good, kind, caring, generous folks looking out for each other. There may be scant mention of them in the media, but there is no need, for we can witness them first-hand anywhere we turn if we only take the time to notice. Therein, I believe, lies the true heartbeat of America and hope for its future. And that’s why I still love America. Happy 4th of July . . . and may God bless America!