Published in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, June 17, 2010
In a few weeks, we’ll celebrate the Fourth of July and recall a Declaration of Independence that says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, [and] that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Preamble to our Constitution speaks of “securing the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
Our Pledge of Allegiance concludes “with liberty and justice for all.”
We love liberty! But while the Declaration of Independence says that “all are equated equal,” it is not always apparent that we love equality.
When Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister—and a Christian socialist—wrote the Pledge in 1892 for public school programs sponsored by the National Education Association of which he was chairman, he considered including the word “equality”—but knew that many state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African-Americans.
I’m reminded of what one of my African-American friends once said to his white sisters and brothers back in the 1960s: “When you recite the Pledge of Allegiance what you mean is ‘liberty and justice for y’all.’”
There are numerous contexts today in which equality, in terms of liberty and justice for all, needs to be recognized in fulfilling the promises of what was declared on July 4, 1776; perhaps one of the most significant contexts is that of marriage equality and recognitions of same-sex marriage.
So especially for those of us who relate to a Christian tradition, St. Paul, one of our earliest organizers, makes this declaration: “Sisters and brothers, you were called, as you know, to liberty; but be careful, or this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence.” [Galatians 5:13]
Liberty, without equality, reflects a self-indulgent nation.
The Rev. Don Prange, of St. James United Church of Christ in Lovettsville, can be reached at 540-822-4306 or via http://www.stjamesucc-love.org.