July 4, 2010

Happy Inter-Dependence Day, y’all!

A poll came out recently indicating that 26% of the citizens of the U.S. “don’t know who they are independent from.”  Meaning, they don’t know from which country the U.S.  declared its independence and waged a revolutionary war for separation.

One one hand, this is depressing news, in that it adds further evidence to the notion that we are increasingly a nation of dummies, on our way toward becoming the society prophetically mocked by the movie Idiocracy.

However, it could be that those 26% actually know more than the rest of us do.

You see, in reality, we aren’t independent from anyone.

Okay, so we are no longer subject or pay taxes to England, but we did not win that war without the assistance of France and several native American tribes.  Despite our founding myths, we aren’t self-made and we didn’t pull ourselves up by our own boot straps.

Moreover, have you ever stopped to think about how our nation became the world’s leading super power, and the seat of the new global empire, when we’re just barely 200 years old?  Among the nations of the world, we are but an infant, perhaps moving toward adolescence.

We’re puppies who account for just 5% of the world’s population…and yet, as we know, we have come to consume 25% of the world’s energy and upwards of 2/3 of the world’s natural resources!

Well I’ve stopped to ponder this…and here’s what I’ve come up with.

The U.S. artificially accelerated its growth through the means of slavery and genocide.  Like a Tour de France cyclist doping blood and taking steroids, we took a short cut.  We cheated.  We boosted our economy to have a competitive advantage of our European trading partners by having slaves work our farms and plantations and we paid back the native Americans who helped us defeat the British by taking over their lands, killing most of them off, and forcing the survivors onto small reservations on largely undesirable land.

I don’t mean to “bash” America.  I will hold my patriotic credentials up to most anyone.  I am an Eagle Scout, I participated in the Boy’s State program sponsored by the American Legion, I’m currently serving as a Den leader for a Cub Scout pack, and I’ve voted in every election since I turned 18.  But patriotism doesn’t mean blind allegiance, it means love, and love requires truth telling and constructive criticism to help that which one loves to be the best it can be.

On the individual level, I am in no way a self-made man.  I was fortunate to have been raised by two college professors and to have had the value of education instilled in me.  I was blessed to have had a huge discount for my college education by attending a college that was part of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest – part of the alliance that the school my father taught at was a part of (a common perk for the offspring of college profs).  I was blessed to have had my graduate degree expenses, several homes I’ve owned, and several cars I’ve driven, partially financed by the wealth of my former father in law.

And, though my ex-wife and I “declared our independence from each other”, I’m still benefiting by having her and her parents help me raise our son.

While not exactly pack animals, humans are social creatures and the truth is that we “get by with a little help from our friends.”  We are not lone wolves and those of us who try to be end up like Ted Kaczynski- antisocial sociopaths.

Trying to propel our myth of uber-independence, a recent motto for our U.S. army is “An Army of One” – but in reality, in order to be effective (and to come back alive), our troops learn the deep value of teamwork and inter-dependence.

Curiously, and ironically, it could be that our nation’s military may know the value of inter-dependence more than our nation’s Christians.  Tragically, American Christianity has allowed itself to become one of the chief tellers of the lie that we should all be striving to be independent persons who do it alone.

Jesus never said any such thing.  Jesus told us that he is the vine and we are the branches and that apart from God, we can do nothing.  James, Jesus’ brother, began his book in the Bible referring to himself as, “James, a slave to God and Christ.”  And the apostle Paul said that it was no longer he who lived, but Christ in him – that he surrendered himself to allow Christ to shine through.  He called us all to celebrate our freedom in Christ – but pointed out that our freedom makes us free to choose to be dependent upon God and interdependent among each other.

If you still aren’t convinced that the U.S. isn’t dependent upon others, think about  the oil spill that is destroying our Gulf Coast and ponder a bit about what would happen if China were to call in our debts.

Happy Inter-Dependence Day y’all!

p.s. I’ve preached sermons with this title for years, going back to 1996, but now it’s “real” because it’s on the net. ; )

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