The American Creed: The Optimistic Outlook of a Black Patriot
By Dr. Christopher C Bell Jr.
July 6th 2014
1. Introduction: I wish to thank the members of the worship committee for the opportunity to speak to you this Sunday morning; two days after the American July 4th holiday. In keeping with the celebration of America’s birthday, I choose the topic: The American Creed; The optimistic outlook of a Black patriot in the year 2014.
2. Definition of Terms: First let’s deal with a few definitions.
a. The American Creed: The American’s Creed is the title of a resolution passed by the U.S. House of Representatives April 3, 1918. It is a statement written in 1917 by William Tyler Page as an entry into a patriotic contest.
“I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon these principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.”
b. Patriot: According to the Webster’s dictionary a “patriot” is a person who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests. I, Christopher Bell, am the Black American patriot referred to in the subject of this sermon.
There are several understandings to consider about people who self-identify as American patriots. These understandings include the following:
(1) There are a few American patriots who are “True-believers” in affirming and promoting the principles embedded in the American Creed and they actively campaign and work with others to promote these principles;
(2) There are many Americans who are American patriots but they are not inclined to campaign or stand on a soap-box to promote the principles of noted in the Creed;
(3) There are many Americans who claim to be American patriots who do not believe in promoting or allowing the principles of the Creed to apply to all American citizens; these Americans are not sincere and they are hypocrites;
(4) All American citizens are not American patriots. This statement is true for both white and black people.
(5) American patriots may disagree on American governmental policies on any and many issues; and this is understandable. However, sincere American patriots will all agree that all Americans should support the American Constitution and promote the principles embodied in the American Creed.
c. Optimistic Outlook: By having an optimistic outlook, I mean that I have an outlook on the future of America and the American Creed that’s mentally inspiring, emotionally refreshing, and spiritually uplifting to me. But in order for my outlook to be realized lots of work will be required of the True Believers in the American Creed. Let me explain.
Argument: I have a three focused outlook concerning Americans and their commitment to affirming and promoting the principles cited in the American Creed. I have a present day focus (0 to 10 years), a short-range future focus (20-30 years), and a long-range future focus (40-60 years).
(1) Regarding my present day focus (0 to 10 years): Today I see that Americans are engaged in a great Civil and Cultural War that prevents America from realizing the visions noted in the American Creed. This is a war between Americans who call themselves American Patriots. When I look out today (in 2014) at America’s political, social, and economic landscape I see one of the key problems preventing America from realizing the principle of the Creed is that: White racism is alive and vigorous, and it now masquerades as other things and uses many disguises. I see around me continuous “racial-voting rights struggles and racial injustice problems. I see that many White Americans are still in the throes of adjusting to the philosophical assertion that “all men are created equal”; of adjusting to the notion that equal opportunities should be extended to all American citizens or adjusting to the notion implied by the Creed that no one should be discriminated against because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation. But I’m not going to dissect and analyze or speak on these problems today. Today we’ll celebrate America’s birthday and I’ll speak about those things that I see that will allow America to become the best country it can be in affirming and promoting the principles noted in the American Creed. To do this I will speak to you about my short-range future focus and my long-range future outlook focus.
(2) Regarding my short range future focus (10-30 years): When I go to my short range future focus, I become optimistic. I become optimistic because:
(a) It is my assessment that many Americans, white and black, will have become “true believers” in the American Creed and will have begun to work diligently at convincing other Americans to commit to promoting its principles, and;
(b) As history has shown and will show again and again, geo-political forces and agencies outside of America’s boundaries will affect Americans in such a way that white and black Americans will expand their comfort zones toward each other to ensure their mutual survival, protection, and prosperity. Although it may take an enemy or a movement beyond America’s borders to prod black and white Americans to unity and draw closer, the end result will be a better and stronger America.
(c) The rise, expansion, and acknowledgement of American Women Leadership that is equal to or better than male leadership is another factor that gives me optimism. The ability and leadership skills of American women will be recognized and will expand as women begin to use their political strength to secure leadership positions in American society. It is my belief that American female leadership in the major political, social, educational, and civic settings of America will be the saving grace for America as far in committing to the principles of the American Creed and overseeing the general welfare of the nation. As quiet as it may be kept, we all know that women are smarter than men, and I see and sense that female leadership will bring light and wisdom to the American way of life. American women will rise up and become U.S. Presidents, Governors of States, Senators and Congress-people, business and financial executives, military leaders, college presidents, worship leaders, and they will still be able to be gentle and understanding toward those whom they love. Time will not permit me to say more on this subject, so I will simply say that my short range future focus is optimistic with regards to Americans affirming and committing to the principles of the American Creed because I foresee the continuing expansion of female leadership at all echelons of American society.
(3) Regarding my long-range future focus (40-80 years): I am optimistic regarding this focus because:
(a) I believe the percentage increase in the number of American Creed-True Believer patriots in the American population will exceed the percentage increase of hypocritical American patriots. These True Believers will actively promote the principles espoused in the American Creed and more and more white Americans will rise above their white racist thinking.
(b) Time and events will have provided more and more black Americans with experiences that will give them a consciousness to become willing to sacrifice their time and energy to promote the principles of the Creed. Today many black people are not American patriots. Many are not American patriots because their experiences have shown them that many white Americans or white Americans in general hypocrites when it comes to the principles embedded in the American Creed. I am one of those who acknowledge that some cultural and social behavior take time to change, but many blacks will not become American patriots until they perceive in white people’s behavior at the street and local level that touch their everyday sense of well-being. But I know black people will change their minds and become American Patriots when they sense that white Americans are changing and that the younger generations of whites are pressing to change and replace today’s society’s white privileged political and social structures to a more inclusive and progressive and less racist society; a society that supports the American Creed.
The glue of my optimism: One of the major underlying threads to my optimism lies in the fact that I now fellowship with you who are members of a UU church and congregation. You and I are people who affirm and commit to several principles as a guide to our behavior. And what is significant about that? Well, for one thing, they don’t deal with “beliefs” but with behavioral principles aimed as noble goals, and these principles are congruent with the principles embedded in the American Creed. When I think of the American Creed, I also think about the several principles that we as Unitarians Universalists commit to affirming and promoting. The UU principles as noted on the back of your church program.
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person
2. Justice, equality and compassion in human relations
3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
6. The goal of a world community with peace, liberty and justice for all
7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part
A quick flashback to the American Creed (AC) and we see that the American Creed (AC) tells us that America was “. . . established upon the principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.” Now let’s compare these two sets of principals.
- The ACs’ reference to “freedom” coincides with UU’s P-5, “the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process”
- The ACs’ reference to “equality and justice” coincides with the UU’s P-2,”Justice, equality, and compassion in human relations.”
- The AC’s reference to “humanity” coincides with the UU’s P-1, “affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person”; and coincides with UU’s P-5, “affirming the use of the democratic process in societies at large”; and in addition it coincides with UU’s P-6, “promoting the goal of a world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.”
If Unitarian Universalists are committed Unitarians, they will routinely act in ways that help to carry out the principles embedded in the American Creed. Usually, it is the American Creed-True Believing Patriots who venture “outside of what would be considered normal or routine orbits of activity in promulgating the principles of the American Creed.” Therefore, if you are a practicing and committed Unitarian you will be part of the leading edge of change-makers in bringing forth a new and noble generation of Americans patriots.
Conclusion: So I ask you now what do you think about America? Where are you on the American Patriot spectrum? Church, you already know your UU principles and now you are aware of the American Creed. Now that you know these things, I’ll use the jargon of a recent bank card commercial and ask you: “Tell me now what’s in your moral, mental, and patriotic wallet? What do you feel about America and how do you show it?” Take that question with you when you leave this church today.
I’d like to put this sermon in your memory box and wrap it with the song, “The House I live in” (listen to Paul Robeson’s version here). The words and music are by Earl Robinson and Lewis Allen. (Acappella singing of, “The House I live in.”)