Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, because God brought you out from there by the strength of his hand.
“…in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.” —General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865
Over two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Major General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas, that “all slaves are free.” Real freedom did not come to most of the “freed” people in Texas until somewhat later, and laws quickly sprang up to control and circumscribe their lives. Nevertheless, African Americans adopted the date of Granger’s order to celebrate emancipation. “In one of the most inspiring grassroots efforts of the post-Civil War period, they transformed June 19 from a day of unheeded military orders into their own annual rite, ‘Juneteenth,’ beginning one year later in 1866.”
On Monday, June 20,2022, every American will observe the federal holiday Juneteenth National Independence Day. In a historical sense, we are all descended from both the enslaved and the enslaver, the oppressor and the oppressed, and it is good that we should all recognize every aspect of our shared heritage. Obviously, we have not all experienced this heritage the same way because of unjust systems, learned hatreds, and ingrained ignorance. The path to peace requires us to take responsibility for past violence and exploitation and celebrate moments of liberation.
Christians in particular ought to cherish Juneteenth. We worship the God who freed us from sin’s bondage through Jesus Christ. We insist that God shows no partiality, and all are equally beloved. We remember that Jesus proclaimed “liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.” We know the Holy Spirit empowers us to discern and speak the truth. Of all people Christians should celebrate a moment when the nation upheld our cardinal virtue liberty.
I encourage you to use some of the Juneteenth federal holiday to learn more about the struggle for liberation in our country and discuss what you learn with others. Our lives together are so much richer when we understand more fully our common heritage.