Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

For the last week, we have commemorated the 150th anniversary of that great tragedy the battle of Gettysburg and for me history has rarely been more alive. Today is Independence Day ... a day of thanksgiving ... though many have forgotten exactly what it is we are to be thankful for. We visited the Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg this afternoon. The legislature is not in session and the effect of the deserted grounds was almost chilling.

The city of Harrisburg feels rather more weighted than distinguished by the emerald-domed edifice. Even with a crowd about it, that capitol seems dead. For a moment, with the sun baking my face and my neck kinking so my eyes could scale the summit and the gold image that crowns it, the architecture transported me to stand before the crumbling ruins of Rome and Athens. "Confidence of man in man is the fundamental sanction that upholds every secure title to wealth," one inscription read. Here man has made a name for himself...and here he tears himself down with his own hands.

"He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision."

Here rubbish littered the bottom of dry fountains and so "Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked." There we crossed the street before wide stone stairs scaling the height to great carved doors and in the shadow of imposing Corinthian columns and gleaming white statuary a shiftless character sprawled unconsciously across the crumbling steps of a tumbled-down shop. Now we read an inscription beneath the honorary statue of John Frederick Hartranft, the minion of tyrants, now a vague mention of knowledge as the seat of justice over some leaf-strewn bench.

Such strange ironies are scattered over the stone and wood of this thing made with man's hands. Here a lion spews water fiercely from a drain pipe across from a door carved with images of productivity and industry. There an eagle, that flagrant emblem of aggression and coercion, perches over a gate along with the face of the god-fearing William Penn, the father of this commonwealth that is his namesake.

"Let tyrants and slaves submissively tremble
And bow down their necks neath the juggernaut car"

The capitol's stark white walls glared wearily on the grimy streets and buildings before it, almost as if were tired of housing an empty shell. It is the Fourth of July...our Independence day...and yet while the white opulent structure, supposedly the seat of the defense of justice - the state - looks vacantly out of bared doors and window sashes sporting cobwebs, a rock concert shakes its foundation from two blocks away.

Last to be paused before is a complete replica of the Liberty Bell, bound by some pragmatist advocate of certain kinds of public silence to hang still and silent, yet with the ringing words of almighty God emblazoned on it nonetheless..."proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitant thereof." I can knock on it with my hand and its voice sings...muffled like the distant tolling of a lament, echoing over the public square. One day perhaps it will ring again once more...if it is allowed to endure until that time when all things are made new. When the last stones of man's dead works are shown to be what they always were and lie crumbling in the dust before the piercing glare of the living God, we will no longer need these sobering reminders to fear and obey Him.

"Down with the eagle and up with the cross!
...Shouting the battle cry of freedom!"

“Woe to him who builds a town with blood
and founds a city on iniquity!
Behold, is it not from the LORD of hosts
that peoples labor merely for fire,
and nations weary themselves for nothing?
For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea."
~Habakkuk 2:12-14

The proclamation of true freedom is certainly a battle cry.  To what end do you build this Independence Day?

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