“Our Four Freedoms Report Card” A Devotion for Independence Day

“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” —John 8:32

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his State of the Union address, which became known as the “Four Freedoms Speech.” As Europe was embroiled in WWII, and Pearl Harbor was just 11 months away, FDR put forth a summary of the democratic values that were under assault at the time.

On this Independence Day let us reflect on some of the many challenges to FDR’s “Four Freedoms” in our national life today.

Freedom of Speech: Silencing unpopular views, limiting press access, stigmatizing the media, trigger warnings on campus, “fake news.”

Freedom of Worship: Vandalism at houses of worship, increased Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, immigration ban based on religion.

Freedom from Want: Poverty, income inequality, limiting access to affordable health care, systemic racism, rampant addiction, unequal pay for women.

Freedom from Fear: Hate speech, rising hate crimes, racial profiling, epidemic gun violence, homophobia, mass deportations, hostility toward immigrants.

Most likely you could add many more items that I have missed, but this list tells us we have a long way to go. Even FDR fell short of his own ideals by interning Japanese- Americans during the war.

If our Fourth of July celebrations are to have moral integrity we need to be clear-eyed about our significant failings to live up to our highest ideals. Otherwise patriotism and love of country risk becoming mere zealotry and can lead to xenophobia and jingoism.

There is a line in “America the Beautiful” that goes “America, America, God mend thine every flaw . . .” I like that. It acknowledges the truth about our imperfections and invites us to pray and work to make our nation “a more perfect union.”

Prayer: O God of the nations, move our hearts toward your love, justice and peace.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for July 4, 2017. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Photo: The Four Freedoms by Norman Rockwell)

2 thoughts on ““Our Four Freedoms Report Card” A Devotion for Independence Day

  1. Your “Freedom from Want” and “Freedom from Fear” leave me wanting. Sexism/Misogyny is as prevalent in our society as Racism. http://www.newsweek.com/misogyny-rife-america-study-proves-it-611574

    Do you really think that pay equality is the only thing women want or fear? More than 20,000 phone call per day are placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide; domestic victimization is correlated to higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior; 1 in 5 women have been raped; 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female; and, physical, mental, and sexual and reproductive health effects have been linked with intimate partner violence including adolescent pregnancy, unintended pregnancy in general, miscarriage, stillbirth, intrauterine hemorrhage, nutritional deficiency, abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal problems, neurological disorders, chronic pain, disability, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Victims of domestic violence are also at higher risk for developing addictions to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. http://ncadv.org/learn-more/statistics

    • Thanks for your comment. I agree. But our devotions are 300 words and we don’t always get everything in there. Which I knew at the time which is why I wrote: “Most likely you could add many more items that I have missed, but this list tells us we have a long way to go.” I appreciate your addition, and I am sure there are others needed. Most of the pushback I have received is from the right, saying that my list was anti-Trump or “the platform of the Democratic Party.”

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