July 4th, Fireworks, and Religion
By DANNY MINTON
I was probably around ten when my dad bought a box of fireworks for us to ignite in a July 4th celebration. Excited about the events, I begged to be able to fire at least one of them ahead of time. My dad let me choose one, and I chose a package of 50 “Black Cat” firecrackers. I headed out the back door of 905 21st Street in Plano, Texas, firecrackers, and matches in hand. If you’ve ever seen a package of firecrackers, you know that the fuses are twisted and turned together to make a long package that stays together. You take the top one and untwist it to be able to fire it separately.
At the time, I did not know why the packages bore this design and, as a result, did not know to take them off by untwisting them one at a time. My solution was to light the first fuse. Remember, these fuses are all twisted together. The results of this action would be for the burn to advance from one to the other. What happened was a continuous explosion of fifty firecrackers blowing up in all directions like popcorn igniting its kernels. It woke up my dad from his nap and the neighbors all around, coming out the doors to see what catastrophe was occurring in the neighborhood.
Nowadays, the “Fourth of July” is a time of fun, a time for fireworks, picnics, ballgames, and family outings to the parks and beaches (Covid-19 aside). We celebrate but give little thought to what the date stands for in our country. We tend to forget that it represents men and women who, over two-hundred years ago, gave their lives for us to have the freedom we have today. It is because of what they started that I believe we live in the greatest country on earth. Some, I know, disagree, but that’s what I think. We have more freedoms and opportunities than the vast majority of people who walk the planet.
One of those freedoms and the most precious is the freedom to worship God freely. On any given day of the week, we can gather together (Covid-19 aside, of course) to sing, praise, and study our God without being afraid that we will be arrested or executed for our worship. We can carry our Bibles with us wherever we go. We are free to share our beliefs with others. We can pray publicly. Even though the government bans a general public prayer at ball games, no individual can be stopped from bowing their head and privately praying to God. No soldier will come and pull you away; you will not stand before a judge because you prayed; you will not face execution because you give away Bibles to people on the street.
This week our congregation will not meet at the building. We could if we wanted, but we choose not to out of concerns for physical safety. Even when the government steps in, they are not trying to control religious freedom. They are trying to manage a virus that makes people sick. This week we will meet together again but through the technology of streaming our service. No one will come to my door and arrest me for worshipping God. It’s a right substantiated by a group of patriots long before television and I were born.
This weekend, enjoy the fireworks, enjoy the gatherings, and the time with family and friends. Still, most of all, enjoy the freedoms we have in this country, especially the freedom to worship our God openly and freely.
“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Psalm 95:1-2 (NIV2011)
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ