They risked all they had for the ideal of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ and many lost all they had in the conflict to achieve liberation. Two hundred and thirty six years later, our national identity is still shaped by the inspired independence of those first Americans.
Throughout our long history there has always been a temptation to take their ideals to the extreme. The unique opportunities offered by our nation’s spirit of independence can easily disintegrate into a survival of the fittest mentality that equates the prosperity and welfare of a particular elite group with the well-being of everyone. The so called “I’m up, pull up the ladder” attitude is always a threat to the spirit of independence promoted by our forefathers. Unfortunately, as we struggle to extract ourselves from a universal economic meltdown, the ugly specter of class distinctions and socio-economic elitism has raised its head. Proposed solutions to our economic woes now include reducing or eliminating aid to the most vulnerable sector in society. Poverty is now being attributed to the personal failings of those who have fallen by the wayside.
Independence Day can call us to reflect on a more effective antidote to social tension. The misunderstood and self centered spirit of independence can be countered by our spirit of interdependence, which is an essentially Christian idea.
Christ gives us two commandments: ‘love God and love your neighbor’. St. John teaches that "If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth" (1 John 17-18). The classic text, of course is: "If anyone says, 'I love God,' but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from Jesus: whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:20-21). Seen from this interdependent perspective, our relationships with each other and with our nation become almost sacramental, that is, God can be seen working and present in those relationships. Interdependence is at the heart of Christian faith and practice. Christianity is not only a matter of belief, but also, and more fundamentally, of action. As St. John put it in his First Letter, it is not a matter of loving "in word or speech but in deed and truth."
Every Independence Day, should be a celebration of the spirit and demands of interdependence. It is what following Christ is all about. Happy Inter-dependence Day!
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