Happy Fourth of July – Not ‘Independence’ Day

This weekend we celebrated the Fourth of July with picnics and fireworks and way too much food. The Fourth of July is also called ‘Independence Day’, a commemoration of the colonists rebelling against the rule of England.

It is America’s 239th Birthday. . . .

Happy Birthday, America!

declaration of independence signingNo other holiday is endowed with the same kind of  American-ness, elevating secular values, such as liberty and self-government, to almost astronomical heights. Americans collectively remind themselves of who they are and what they profess to believe on Independence Day.

There are some interesting facts about Independence Day that you may not know:

  1. The real date that the Continental Congress declared independence from the British Empire
    was July 2, 1776.
  2. July 4 is celebrated as Independence Day because the Congress approved the Declaration of
    Independence on July 4, 1776, after two days of debating and revising its contents.
  3. The Declaration of Independence was actually signed by most of the members of the
    Continental Congress on August 2, 1776.
  4. Three American presidents died on the Fourth of July, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and
    James Monroe.
  5. The song “America” was sung for the first time on July 4th, 1832 in Boston.
  6. Alaska and Hawaii both became states on the fourth of July.

The Fourth of July is a rare moment of unity, one of the very few times each year when an increasingly polarized society participates in a single, shared experience. It’s intended to be a day to honor the fundamental values of the American democracy — life, liberty, independence, equality, justice and self-determination.

The word independence is defined as:

freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.

The concept of independence is a good one; we all need to realize that we are the only ones responsible for our actions. We can do whatever we want, within the bounds of being legal, and no one can stop us. We live in a democracy where a prime minister cannot dictate how we feel or what we say or how we live. That is really freeing and give us each a sense of control over our lives. But with those ‘rights’ come responsibilities – responsibilities for ourselves and responsibilities to others.

So, I am suggesting that to correctly celebrate July fourth, we should be celebrating ‘Interdependence Day’.

Interdependence is defined as:

the mutual reliance on each other.

Although we are free to do what we want, none of us live alone on a desert island; we are all part of the wider community and what we do does impact others. We are all connected in some way or other. All the false borders we often put up to separate us from others in the name of independence: those of  race and religion and status, all tend to reinforce the idea that ‘the other’ is something we need to be protected from, that we are in a cocoon so that what we or they do has no impact on each of us.

Building those false borders creates a posture of fear and self-preservation; we wrongly believe that another’s gain is somehow our loss and our gain is someone else’s loss. These borders deprive us of the great diversity we live and flourish in. These self-made barriers also keep us in denial of our responsibility toward others, exempting us from owning our part in the greater community.

But we do not live in a protective dome; we live on the earth with the rest of humanity. We have to live with and in an environment where we all can flourish. What we do affects others as much as what others do affects us. And we have mutual goals (life, liberty and pursuit of happiness) that we cannot attain by ourselves.

We all have heard the creation story in Genesis 2:18-23 that God created a world where we are directed to protect the world. Each one of us is to

‘feed the hungry, clothe the naked’

as Jesus said in Matthew 25:35-40. In order to do that, we all must work together. We cannot do it alone. We all are dependent on each other; we are to

love one another (John 13:34-35)

So yesterday, people rightly celebrated the birth of our nation, and the personal freedoms we seek as a people, to protect and celebrate. Yet this and every day is an opportunity to realize how much we need, rely on, learn from, and owe to one another, far beyond our own little corner of the world.

The Fourth of July is cause for both reverence and celebration. But so is our interdependence on each other.

Let us pray:

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of world a zeal for justice and the strength of tolerance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will. Amen.

Happy Interdependence Day!


Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH  5 July 2015

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