Conversations, VOLUME 2

July 4 – Celebrating Interdependence Day [Vol. 2, #25]

By Brent Aldrich, Chris Smith and Ragan Sutterfield.

Independence is overrated and more than that it is a myth.  We are all utterly interdependent beings from birth to death.  We could not survive without microbes that help build our soil and the plants and trees that create oxygen and offer us food; we would never become mature adults without teachers and mentors; our cities would be full of disease if we didn’t have people who collect our garbage.  More than Independence Day we need an Interdependence Day to celebrate our dependence upon one another and the earth, and our ultimate dependence upon God.  We invite you to participate in a counter holiday on July 4th, a day on which we are declaring our interdependence.  Below you will find 40 recommendations for ways to celebrate Interdependence Day.  Most of all express thanks to those who make your life possible.

Happy Interdependence Day!

40 Ways to Celebrate Our Interdependence

  1. Shop only at locally-owned merchants or restaurants.
  2. Write a note of appreciation to a mother; thank her for raising a child.
  3. Look through your clothes.  Learn about one of the countries where they were manufactured and commit to doing one thing to improve the lives of the people who live and work there.
  4. Take a digital recorder out into your neighborhood and do “field recordings” of your neighbors showing off their talents (singing, playing instruments, telling jokes/stories).  Make a cd of these recordings and distribute it freely in your neighborhood.
  5. Gather some neighbors, walk around your neighborhood and do asset-mapping, noting key places in the local economy: local businesses, restaurants, parks, community gardens. Make a map that highlights these assets and distribute it freely in your neighborhood.
  6. Learn where your utilities come from—the source of your electricity, gas, and water.
  7. Dig up a bucket of soil from your garden or yard, examine it, noticing all of the elements of organic matter, sand, clay, and the organisms that make your daily meals a possibility.
  8. Host or plan a neighborhood produce exchange, where gardeners can barter the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors with one another.
  9. Spend the 4th of July baking cookies or bread.  Give your baked goods to the person who delivers your mail or picks up your trash the next time you see them.
  10. Host a rain-barrel making party and teach your neighbors how to make and use rain-barrels to recycle rain water.    
  11. Gather your neighbors and find a building or retaining wall on which to design and paint a mural in your neighborhood.  If a suitable wall can’t be found, paint the mural on plywood panels in a park or community garden.
  12. Spend the day hiking in the woods.  Think about how God cares for the sparrows and lilies of the field.
  13. Gather your neighbors and do a spontaneous parade that shows off people’s talents – music, acrobatics, costumes, etc.
  14. Host a neighborhood yard sale, except require that participants barter things/services for things they want.  Donate any unwanted items at the end of the day to a locally-owned thrift store.
  15. Climb a tree and sit there for a long period of time, observing and documenting – in photographs, drawings, paintings, writings, etc. – the forms of life that you see from that vantage point.
  16. Sit down and handwrite a letter to an old friend or family member.  Tell them one of your favorite memories of them.
  17. Commit to not using any gasoline on the fourth of July and encourage your neighbors to do likewise.
  18. Organize a bicycle tour through your neighborhood.
  19. Gather your neighbors and make and post educational signs relevant to your neighborhood:  See
  20. Gather your neighbors and plant marginal spaces in your neighborhood with native flowers or foods.
  21. Hold a knowledge exchange where people gather and each get ten minutes to teach the group about something they’re passionate about.
  22. Call a meeting in your neighborhood to plan a large-scale fall tree planting throughout your neighborhood.
  23. Pass out copies of a book on local culture or local economy in your neighborhood (e.g., Bill McKibben’s DEEP ECONOMY) and gather on the 4th of July to discuss the book in regard to your neighborhood.

  24. Announce a contest for making creative bird-feeders (with bonus points for making them out of recycled materials!) and bring all the entries together on the 4th of July, let neighbors judge them and then hang them throughout the neighborhood.  Find a way to support the upkeep of the feeders.
  25. Throw a neighborhood history party.  Record neighbors telling their most memorable stories about the neighborhood and assemble these stories into a DVD, CD or book.  Make sure elderly neighbors get involved.
  26. Plan a neighborhood cleanup day – picking up and recycling litter, sweeping sidewalks, etc.
  27. Find neighbors knowledgeable about local plants and trees and their uses and get them to lead a walking tour that showcases this knowledge.
  28. Plan a workday in your community garden, or if you don’t have a community garden gather neighbors to brainstorm how you might start one.
  29. Gather neighbors for a conversation about permaculture.  Learn how certain plants when planted together benefit one another.
  30. Host a neighborhood potluck, and encourage neighbors to use local foods in the dishes they contribute.
  31. Look for everything you have two of and give one away.
  32. Host a neighborhood conversation about the practicalities and details of using alternative forms of energy (solar, wind, etc.).
  33. If there are abandoned/foreclosed homes in your neighborhood, gather neighbors to clean up and/or beautify these properties.
  34. Attempt to repair something broken.  Appreciate the people who repair things for you one a regular basis.
  35. Track down old teachers and mentors.  Let them know the influence they have played in your life.
  36. Visit an elderly neighbor or family member.  Have them tell you the story of their life.
  37. Find a local place where you can build a public sculpture (church, community garden, etc). Get your neighbors to donate one piece of junk that they do not want, and work together to build a meaningful sculpture out of these materials – dissembling them as necessary.
  38. Pray the Lord’s Prayer and commit to one concrete action to live out each part.
  39. Babysit someone else’s children.
  40. Go to a place where people are gathered and offer free hugs to all.


Brent Aldrich is a visual artist and member of Englewood Christian Church, Indianapolis.  He also teaches at Herron School of Art.

Chris Smith is editor of The Englewood Review of Books and also a member of  Englewood Christian Church, Indianapolis.

Ragan Sutterfield is a writer, cultural critic, and farmer living in his native Arkansas. Ragan has written for a variety of magazines including Plenty, Men’s Journal, Paste, Gourmet, Spin, and Books & Culture.  His first book is due later this year from Doulos Christou Press.


C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

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  1. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

    I must protest.

    Independence Day is NOT a myth. In God’s good providence, we live in a nation of freedom that has been and continues to be won through the blood of Americans to make sure that you and I can continue to do our work in peace.

    If we continue to disparage or downplay our nation’s history, if our children do not reflect upon the ideals of this great nation, we will lose that freedom.

    I love you all and remain stedfast in my continued support of everything ECC does and will do. But in fairness and honesty, I cannot let this posting simply pass without comment.

    I am grateful for God’s sovereign grace as the conduit for my eternal salvation in the next life and am also grateful for the sacrifice of many who have made my life of liberty on earth possible in this great land.

    As it is possible, so far as it depends upon me, I live at peace with all. Mark (Romans 12:18)

    • Thank you Mark. u00a0I have often said that its easy to be a pacifist when the blood of others defends their right to be so. u00a0Can we not honor those who sacrificed their very lives that you may now enjoy this freedom to question. u00a0German Christians in WW2 did not have this luxury.

  2. Brent… great to see your thoughts and ideas here. I read your 40 ideas posted through Shane Claiborne on Sojourners site. Thanks for the site, the book reviews, and your missional heart.

  3. Mark–The sacrifice of those people is unfortunate, but no killing is to be done in the name of Jesus Christ. God will not endorse your program nor will God endorse America.

    Christ calls us to the cross–we don’t do the crucifying.


  4. @Mark Eckel

    I think this post is more concerned with the American concept of individualistic independence than the historical reality of America’s separation from Great Britain.

    That being said, I think we should rightly question any notion of independence from others (national or otherwise) that requires so much death, deception, subterfuge, and which perpetuates a massive division of wealth between our nation and the people who produce the goods we use.

  5. All

    The historic reality of Independence Day brings with it great joy and great responsibility for all Americans. An attitude of gratitude is due our nation and those who have made it possible.

    If there is a concern about America, by all means, speak up! But understand that there is a great deal more involved and other points of view to discuss than the responses above. Preach Christ! But understand that we live in a nation of laws, privileges, and responsibilities which we all enjoy. Share your wealth! But understand that we enjoy both the beneficence of a free market system as well as battling its deficiencies (death, deception, division of wealth)–made by our own sinfulness. All of the negative comments about America must begin first and foremost with myself. Given the opportunity, I would rather live in the US than anywhere else. The greatest “divisions of wealth” exist in nations where people have no voice, no freedom.

    And, honestly, I would never refer to an ethnic group as “those people.” The men and women who protect our freedoms, to live as we desire, ought to receive more than such an epithet. America does not “kill in the name of Christ.” And America’s existence is due to God’s sovereign provision in history, not my program.

    I am and will always be grateful to live in this great land. Gratitude and thankfulness is a foundation stone of Christian belief and practice. If Paul and Peter commanded that first century believers pray thankfulness and practice submission to their (totalitarian, dictatorial) authorities (1 Timothy 2; 1 Peter 2), how much more, in a free nation, should we rejoice in our Independence Day?

    Justice must always precede peace (Romans 5:1-8),

  6. God does not act in history for the sake of nation states. Especially not for the sake of Empires. God acts in the faithful actions of Christians in the form of the church. God does not kill for the American program. You can not domesticate God in the name of Caesar.

    Was God on the side of Pilate?

    You’re right. Justice comes before peace. But you’re talking about military victory before peace, not the good news of Jesus. Pax Romana.

  7. I fully disagree. The biblical point of view of nations in history is quite full from Genesis to Revelation. Both empires and nations were used in both testaments to fulfill God’s program bringing beneficence to people in the very way you suggested: Pax Romana.

    I do not at all understand your comments about God killing for the American program. That statement mystifies me. America has been used for good in many ways: whether through the betterment of the standard of living for ALL or the most tremendous mission’s program in Christian history. God used Pilate for His purpose as He does all of us: pagan or Christian.

    Military victory is the only way “peace” has been accomplished throughout human history. And, yes, Jesus’ just sacrifice, the propitiation for our sin, gave us peace with The Father.

  8. Ryan-

    I appreciate your high need for peace regarding the cause of Christ. However, you may not gain the clarity Mark seems to be attempting to share until your “freedom” of worship is removed from daily life.

    Should that day in our country ever come…God will still remain sovereign and worship will still occur, yet it WILL look a whole lot different.

    These exchanges in ideas/thought/belief will themselves become the myth.

  9. God calls us to belong to nation-states and participate fully in those communities. Romans 13 makes the Christian commitment to the State very clear. Jesus’ submission to the laws of the State are what led to his crucifixion. Particularly, we are called to “render unto Caesar” what is Caesar’s. We belong to different kinds of communities as people and we all have commitments to those communities to varying degrees, whether it is the State, the cul-de-sac, the apartment building, the church, the Kiwanis’ club, our places of work, even. Government acts, in the best case scenario, as the agent of God and we strive as Christians to reach a place where our government reflects that.

    Of course, that leads to the question of how a government reflects Christ. And we discern that by remembering that our primary commitment is to Christ, and so our primary source of reflection for how we live out our commitments is our Church, even above the State. For we cannot serve two masters. And if our primary concern is to the U.S., then our primary concern is to our personal liberty, which does not seem to be much of a concern for Jesus, Paul, the prophets, or other Biblical leaders. There is emancipation from slavery, and the re-establishment of the temple, but individual liberty puts the self first, not God.

    I don’t want to live in a country without religious freedom or other personal freedoms. The government is not perfect and a certain amount of autonomy from it is required to prevent tyranny. But for a Christian, faithfulness to God is our ultimate end. And this means, I believe, not shedding the blood of another for his/her sins (as this was what I believe Christ accomplished on the cross), and envisioning our wars differently, both in how we approach our enemies and how we envision the very purposes of our wars (Eph. 6). And our freedom, in relation to this task, is secondary. That is our ultimate point of reflection.

    But that does not preclude us from commitments to the State, nor participation in social groups or identification with the varied gifts and national and racial and gender and sexual differences which God gifted to us. So even as we grieve those were unjustly murdered in the name of protecting our liberty and securing land and commodities to make into private property for our freedom, and even as we debate whether or not the earth is “ours” or Gods, we can still celebrate how our system of democracy as Americans still stands as a beacon to the rest of the world.

  10. Skeptical Critic

    There has been too much emphasis on miliary heroism. Defense of our land and her liberties is one thing — a most important thing. But, offensive military action, overt or clandestine, that interferes with the sovereignty and self-determination of other people is quite another thing. Our hallowed flag and almost all displays of fidelty to our land have been marred by our painfully lengthy history of interventionism in other people’s affairs. Isn’t it time that we reassess the meaning of patriotism and reclaim it in the name of communitarian values that uphold our liberties as one nation?

  11. In 1776 colonialism was an evil political enslavement by one race over many peoples for exploitation of natural resources and cheap labor.

    It took a big hit with the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence but mostly in the USA.

    Instead of white Europeans conquering vast territory for the KING and his subjects(often under the guize of bringing Christianity to the heathens), we are now witnessing corporate rape and pillage working with corrupt puppet governments to extract wealth from poor countries under unjust terms. The local populations are frequently treated as near-free labor and receive little benefit from the rape of their countries and unsafe, unhealthy labor conditions.

    How much is a barrel of Nigerian oil worth?

    Is a diamond engagement ring really a symbol of undying love?

    Does your SUV really give you freedom?

    Is there such a thing as “clean coal”?

    What are the true life-cycle, global, costs of
    our life-styles? Twenty percent of the world population consumes 80% of the resources. What happens when the 80% strives to live as the 20% do?

    When a billion Chinese start up their SUVs in the morning, we will die of exphixation.

    Independence from tyranny is a good thing. Living like we are independent of the basic forces of nature is pure folly and irresponsible.

  12. Substitutionary atonement is blasphemy and God does not achieve victory through murderous military victories. I would laugh at the notion of America as the bearer of God’s good news if it didn’t sadden me so much that you believe in such idolatry. Ask an Iraqi what he or she thinks of the God that America stands for.

    God has no hand in the murder of innocents, which happens in all wars, especially modern ones. God does not endorse the American program of oppression and enslavement in the name of peace. You can not domesticate the One Who Calls to sit beneath the stars and stripes.

    God achieves victory through the triumph over the power of death in giving ones life openly and defiantly to the powers in the name of the justice of God’s reign. Jesus was executed legally by a state hostile to the reign of God. The powers continue in their hostility to the reign of God in the shape of empires and wars for “the American Way of Life.”

    Our God was executed in the person of Jesus Christ. Those who murdered him and shatter the body of Christ through murder are worthy of ambivalence at best–resistance at their worst. The cowardice of murder, military or otherwise, stands in direct opposition to the courage of martyrdom–which is the way of God.

    • And yet, David, a “warrior” with much blood on his hands was a man after God’s own heart ….. u00a0You are free to exercise your beliefs because others have done and do what will not – put their lives on the line to stop those who would gladly kill you.

  13. Guys, this is really disrespectful. u00a0 Is your freedom to write this a “myth?” u00a0You have so many blessings in this country from the hand of God and the sacrifices so many thousands who have paid for your freedom in blood. u00a0In many countries you couldn’t write this. u00a0You know that, but you have no appreciation. u00a0 I have no problem with recognizing the importance of all and our dependence on God. u00a0Have you ever read the Declaration of Independence – which is the basis of this celebration? u00a0nn”When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.nWe 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.n…..And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

    • These men knew their dependence was upon God and so expressed it. u00a0Most of the 56 men who signed this were either tortured, killed or lost all they had. u00a0Some of them lost members of their family. u00a0What is wrong with taking one day to honor what they did and thousands after have done to secure those freedoms? u00a0Gratitude and thankfulness are important teachings of Jesus as well.

  14. Conniemarie143

    There is absolutely NO reason have a “counter-holiday”, other than an anti-patriotic statement.u00a0 I could never support that.u00a0 I could very much support the idea of an Interdependence Day that was not created in protest.u00a0 Many of the suggestions are creative and beneficial.u00a0 So I propose that the date be changed to August 4th.u00a0 Or any other non-national holiday, for that matter (except May 5th, which is also already taken).u00a0u00a0 I would gladly participate under those circumstances.