In the decades since I was a brat popping firecrackers on our front porch and chasing my cousins with a Roman candle, celebrations of July Fourth have slowly morphed (at least for me) into something almost boring.

I don’t mean by this that I’ve stopped being grateful to be an American. If anything, our nation’s long history spent protecting personal freedoms and keeping us free from despots and dictators and dynasties appears more valuable to me the longer I live. I’m proud and thankful that I am an American.

But hardly a week passes without some alarming news headline that serves as a warning that some of our nation’s take-for-granted freedoms can vanish over night.

Remember how much fun it used to be to fly? Before 9/11. Before pre-flight security measures had to be ramped up to stymie hijackers and bombers who hate us and our free land.

Remember how innocently we kids strolled into our public school classrooms six or seven decades ago? Before Columbine? Before Parkland? Before a plethora of angry, mentally ill killers were allowed to roam our streets and invade our schools.

Remember life before road-rage? Before social media bullying? Before identity thieves could invade 50 million lives through a single digital trapdoor?

The carefree world a lot of us grew up in has had to be pruned and picketed and patrolled in previously unthinkable ways just to keep us sort of safe. And with each new set of rules or restrictions, “the land of the free” has become less free.

Pop all the firecrackers you want, light up the metro sky with pyrotechnic extravaganzas, but the most dazzling displays cannot begin to mask the damage done to our freedoms by the growing segment of our population who have little self-control and zero respect for others.

I wonder. Does this growing percentage of Americans who seem so instantly willing to bash or batter or kill have any connection to the steady drop in the percentage with any active links to a faith community?

In his massive "History of Civilization," Will Durant was describing the whole world during all the centuries when he wrote: “From barbarism to civilization requires a century; from civilization to barbarism needs but a day.” Events in our land not long before we celebrated the last Fourth made me wonder if he was describing us.

 

Gene Shelburne is minister of the Anna Street Church of Christ, 2310 Anna Street, Amarillo, Texas. Contact him at GeneShel@aol.com, or get his books and magazines at www.annastreetchurch.com. His column has run on the Faith page for three decades.