For more than 240 years now, we Americans have been celebrating Independence Day. Being fiercely independent has become a defining American virtue. Unfortunately, I fear we have wandered way too far down that path. We lift ourselves by our own bootstraps. We don’t need any help from anyone. We protect our own against all our enemies (defined as anyone not just like us). We don’t want to be beholding to anyone. We have become so focused on our independence that all too often we forget about our interdependence. Our vision is so turned inward that we lose sight of the reality which is all around us.

In the Hebrew scriptures the prophet Zechariah offers a wonderful vision of God’s desire for peace. “God will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and God shall command peace to the nations; God’s dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9:10) It sounds perfect. God wants peace! And if we could stop the reading right there it would be an inspiring and hopeful passage. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Zechariah’s grasp of who gets included in this vision is so narrow that it is possible, seemingly without even flinching, for him to write just a few verses later: “Then the Lord will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like lightning; the Lord God will sound the trumpet and march forth in the whirlwinds of the south. The Lord of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour and tread down the enemy; they shall drink their blood like wine, and be full like a bowl, drenched like the corners of the altar.” (Zechariah 9:14-15)

Zechariah was basically saying that God’s desire is for peace, but only peace which applies to a particular, narrowly-defined group. In fact, the rest of the world can get slaughtered, if that’s what it takes to keep God’s people safe. Zechariah could genuinely believe that this was the voice of God because he failed to recognize his fundamental connection with the rest of humanity. Whenever we lose sight of our interconnectedness we open ourselves up to this kind of shortsighted, dangerous thinking – nobody matters but us.

How often do we see that happening today? How often are we a part of such thinking? We see starving people in some far off land, and we don’t help because they’re too far away, or it’s too overwhelming, or it simply doesn’t have anything to do with us. We hear reports of war, including details about death and destruction for countless woman and children, and we are told that it is simply the unfortunate price which must be paid to keep us safe.

We have become so enamored with protecting our independence that we can’t even see how far off the path we have wandered. In the name of safety and security, we have allowed our vision of the world to shrink down to just what we can hold in our hands. The problem, of course, is that the tighter we try to hold on, the more it all just slips through our fingers. Independence is an illusion. We are connected beings who live in community, whether we recognize that reality or not. Maintaining a death grip on our independence will not lead us to life.

Singer/songwriter David Wilcox wrote a song about all of this:

There’s no far away, There is no more far away,

so these dreams of the wild west will lead us astray

there is no more far away,

When the war had gone on too long

and the crowd said the troops should come home, home

this blue planet turning alone

the troops had never been gone

There’s no far away, There is no more far away,

so these dreams of the wild west will lead us astray

there is no more far away

The sooner we can remember that we are, in fact, already connected, both to each other and to the Sacred Reality which binds us together, the sooner we will be freed from the burdensome weight of our independence. Individuality is important. Autonomy is important. Safety is important. And none of that can be achieved or preserved by clinging so tightly to our radical independence. Only together (and that means everyone, everywhere) can we really begin to live into the rich interconnected potential which is our God-given birthright. As the bumper sticker reminds us – God bless the whole world, no exceptions.

So on this Fourth of July weekend, may we begin celebrating Interdependence Day. Then, perhaps, we will begin to discover true freedom, for ourselves and for the whole world.

Roger Lynn is the Pastor at Plymouth Congregational Church, which is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

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