There is a process of "naturalization" for anyone born outside the United States to become an American citizen. Along with eligibility requirements such as living in this country for at least five years and demonstrating the ability to read, write, and speak basic English, candidates must also have a basic knowledge and understanding of U.S. History, government, and civic principles. A display of good moral character is also a requirement, along with "an attachment to the principles and ideals of the U.S. Constitution."
Have you ever thought about the fact that persons born in this country are automatically considered citizens of the United States? The "naturalization" process is provided through our formal education system, the five-year dwelling period is disregarded, and good moral character is presumed.
During the official ceremony for those who have passed all requirements for citizenship, each candidate is sworn in after making a declaration of allegiance to the United States. Once again, this step is not mandated for those who are considered "natural" born citizens.
Either way, whether inducted or inherited, living as a citizen of the United States is a privilege, much more than it is a right. As citizens, it is expected that each one of us will contribute to the wellbeing and ongoing stability of our nation.
My religious denomination also requires that membership be granted rather than assumed. My grandparents and parents were members of this denomination, and my entire life has been lived out in this faith. Nevertheless, I was considered an "associate" member, until there was a point in time that I declared the oath of church membership and was granted approval.
Similar to our national political process, it was expected of me to have a basic knowledge and understanding of the church's history, doctrine, and structure of polity. Having 'earned' the privilege to join the church rather than 'assume' it by heredity, I more deeply appreciate the fact that there not only are the benefits of membership being offered, but also a responsibility of its members being expected. Our allegiance calls us not only to receive, but also to give back to the faith community through loyalty, and through acts of service and generosity.
Well, I have been reflecting recently on my Christian heritage, which has led me to be especially thankful for my God, my church, my faith, and the example set before me by my parents and family. I am also thankful for the privilege to live in this country, the United States of America; to enjoy the freedoms that are ours through the Constitution, and to participate in the responsibilities of living and contributing as a good citizen of our nation. Yes, I am blessed!
Steven Callis is the minister at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville.