July 4, 2015 marks the 339th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence by thirteen United States of America. Please remember that great nation of the USA in your thoughts and prayers as it seeks relentlessly to symbolise what true Independence is, with great difficulty. But what is true independence?
Independence is a desire for self-determination. Synonyms for ‘independence’ such as sovereignty, autonomy, freedom, and liberty seem to suggest that it is primarily about identity. It is the determination of who ‘I am’ with two possible ways. Descartes believed, ‘I think, therefore I am’ and our contemporary cultural dogma believes, ‘I desire, therefore I am’. Identity based on this is susceptible to what the social psychologist call ‘Narcissistic Entitlement Syndrome.’ The extreme symptoms of this syndrome is self-determination through greed and violence.
The day I sat down to write this sermon, I heard it on the radio that Dylann Roof assassinated 9 people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. When I came to revisit it a week later, it was reported that Seifeddine Rezgui of Tunisia massacred 38 tourists on the beach. Two ideologies but one outcome – death! Is there a link that we are unable to see? I am daring to suggest that it is self-determination gone awry. Most of us moderate it well. But Dylann Roof and Seifeddine Rezgui may have been susceptible to this ‘identity’ crisis exposed to evil ideological forces.
Here is a possible alternative, ‘I love, and therefore I am’. Try, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other ideology or identity framework greater than this. Independence built on this ideology is yet to be.