July 06, 2009 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
Declaration of DependenceI hope you all had a great Fourth of July with your fill of cookouts, friends, family and fireworks. I enjoyed all of those things this year, but I also did something I had not done for many years: I spent an hour reading and studying the Declaration of Independence. It was good to get reacquainted with this 233 year-old founding document.
One of the things that moved me most in my reading of Declaration of Independence was that the title of this document tells only half the story. Independence from Britain is clearly asserted, but the writing goes further, spelling out exactly what this new experiment in democracy would be dependent upon. This document is also a “declaration of dependence” in that it clearly states its reliance on certain core beliefs and values: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The writers make it clear here and throughout the document that they are dependent upon equality and the right to create a fulfilling life for both life’s thoughts and actions.
I found this assertion of core beliefs and values inspiring, because we live in a time where many people can tell you more easily what they don’t believe than what they do believe. We live in a time when people define themselves more by what they are independent from than what they are dependent upon. This, of course, is natural when a person is questioning beliefs they have held and are in a period of transition, but I sense that many people end up getting stuck in this ‘in between’ stage where they have a hard time articulating the core beliefs and values that their lives are built upon.
So in light of this experiment in democracy that celebrated this past weekend, allow me to suggest an experiment for each of us to try. Take out a sheet of paper and write a declaration of your personal core beliefs and values. Declare what you wish to be ‘independent from’ and what you are dependent upon. If you are married, do this with your spouse as well, and if you have children, do this as a family.
Take your time with this, and have fun with it. Don’t worry about how beautiful your language is--just focus on naming the essential truths upon which you strive to build your life. When you are done, put your ‘John Hancock’ on the bottom and post it on your refrigerator. And remember that, as your own personal experiment with this journey we call life continues to unfold, you are free to amend your document at any time.
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