The Fourth of July, the dance of indepenence and union.

It's the Fourth of July, and good friends have better things to say than I can about all that.  

Jim Friedrich over on his blog, "The Religious Imagineer" writes wonderfully about the hope for new images in word, song and dance, for the celebration of the independence and union that makes for the whole, the America yet to come, but already here somehow in our hopes alive now.  Go read Fourth of July. At the end Jim quotes from Robert Coles, The Spiritual Life of Children:  It is a dream of an 8 year old Hopi girl:
All the people are sitting in a circle, and they are brothers and sisters, everyone! That’s when all the spirits will dance and dance, and the stars will dance, and the sun and moon will dance and the birds will swoop down and they’ll dance, and all the people, everywhere, will stand up and dance, and then they’ll sit down again in a big circle, so huge you can’t see where it goes, or how far, if you’re standing on the mesa and looking into the horizon, and everyone is happy. No more fights. Fights are a sign that we have gotten lost, and forgotten our ancestors, and are in the worst trouble. When the day comes that we’re all holding hands in the big circle – no, not just us Hopis, everyone – then that’s what the word ‘good’ means…and the whole world will be good when we’re all in our big, big circle. We’re going around and around until we all get to be there!

Margaret Watson, over on "Leave it where Jesus flang it" in her wonderfully imaginative way reflects on bread for the whole world, and on the incarnation as a "festivity of rejoicing of the cosmic union of heaven and earth" and how we might take that in as a healing.  She writes, "God willing, today we will gather in a circle in the powwow grounds, say our prayers, remember we are what we eat, a priestly people, and then we will dance, joining The Lord of the Dance in the still center, decked out in our wedding garments. All of us."

I have been silent on this blog, and indeed in most social media, for some weeks now. Much of this is due to the extraordinary experiences of a week of Holy Walk followed by two weeks of small children walking, dancing, crying, laughing, exploring. I am enjoying the moment, and still living in wonder at it all.

For some reason my good friends and these children have lifted me from this silence to say several things:

(i) Jim and Margaret are right: in the end the vision is clear - life is meant to be shared, and shared as one body.  The rose and the fire are one. Heaven and earth are one, and even (William B. are you listening?) Heaven and Hell.

(ii) Since it is the Fourth of July, we might remember that any life that does not join independence and interdependence together (independence and union both) misses the mark. 

And when government in its form or function fail to provide for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we have every business replacing it with a better way, a better means, to that end.  

No one should read the Declaration of Independence as a document solely related to past glories.  It is a present tense declaration, and tyrants of every stripe know it for what it is - a radically simple call to life together for the good of all.  And yes, I know what this means for religious institutions as well. That is why I am an Anglican, stressing independence and interdependence both. It is a profoundly dangerous document. I read it regularly.

(iii) Religion and patriotism are great dangers to any hope for this vision - for religion (rule following behavior in respect to the control and organization of spiritual expression) and patriotism (a secular religion) confuse the vision for the realities of this or that system.  Spiritual expression and love for the notion of a whole people, "out of many one" is never captured by flag or banner. The spiritual promise of life and that abundantly is not delivered by religious organization, no matter how orthodox or ancient.

(iv) And, remembering that it is a time for high and great hopes for life made full and abundant, let us acknowledge that the Fourth of July is in some ways a festival of turning over, turning around - of redemption and release, and does not finally belong to us in the US alone, but to all who hope.

So let us wave small flags, and sing lusty songs of life together, and toot and hoot, light off rockets celebrate new life, and generally carry-on with dance and joy.  For in every way and at every time we need the reminder that we are still walking, yes indeed.  Walking to the land promised in our earliest visions and our latest hopes.

Not pilgrimage, but Holy Walk,  not vision of completion, but incarnation of effort. We will, as W.H. Auden suggests, "see rare beasts and have unique adventures."


  1. Tomorrow, July 5th, we will celebrate the 4th of July at Casa Convento Concepcion for our annual picnic amongst the ruins of early Antigua...nice. Happy 4th of July from Guatemala. Un gran abrazo, Leonardo/Len

  2. Bob McCloskey5/7/14 10:36 AM

    Once again Mark you ring some bells that deeply resonate. My wife and I enjoy watching the July 4 evening extravaganza on the Washington Mall. Last evening as has been our experience many times before in 'patriotic' events a soloist sang only part of "America the Beautiful", omitting the following verse. IMO deleting verse 2 renders what would be a fine change of national anthem, more of a self-proclaiming exclusivism.

    O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
    Whose stern impassioned stress
    A thoroughfare for freedom beat
    Across the wilderness!
    America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
    Confirm thy soul in self-control,
    Thy liberty in law!
    Pax, Bob


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.