October 23, 2017

The Myth of Independence

By Chaplain Mike

“When God blesses us, He almost always does it through other people.”

â–ª Gene Edward Veith

STOP. Think for a moment about what made it possible for you to read that sentence.

First of all, you had to be here, which means at some point in time, you were born. This happened, not by any act or choice you made, but through the actions of others. Your parents conceived you. Your mother carried you within her womb. Someone built a hospital where your mother could go to give birth. A doctor, who likewise had been born and raised by his or her parents, educated and trained by countless people, oversaw your prenatal care and birth. Nurses, aides, and other hospital staff did their part. Your parents’ employers provided the work that supplied the means for them to pay the bills. People working in banks and insurance companies took care of the process of payment.

Your mom and dad and other family members taught you to understand language, to speak, listen, and read. When you got a little older, you attended schools where you received a more formal education, schools provided through the tax dollars of millions of citizens. You had teachers, teacher’s aides and tutors, who were overseen by principals and administrators, whose classrooms were kept clean by custodians, whose teaching materials were provided by authors and publishers and those who marketed them and made them available.

A company of people developed, manufactured, and sold the computer upon which I typed this message. A complex infrastructure of computers, servers, and systems created, maintained, and operated by who knows how many people made it possible for you to see my post on your computer, which was likewise developed, manufactured and sold to you by a bunch of folks.

And then, somewhere, people are working in plants that produce electricity which made all of this possible. Someone designed and built those plants. Someone financed their construction. Someone hired the workers. Someone cuts their paychecks. Someone mined the oil, gas, or coal which powers those plants; someone transported it in trucks made by someone, which traveled on roads someone built, powered by fuel from wells that someone drilled, that was collected and transported by someone, refined by someone, transported to the gas station by someone, and sold by someone.

And there you sit, in your home or office, at the library, bookstore or Starbucks (places that came into existence through the work of a multitude of people), having traveled those roads that someone else built, in a vehicle someone manufactured, with money earned through a job someone provided. You are looking at Internet Monk, drinking a cup of coffee that was grown halfway around the world, after having eaten a supper that came to you through yet another complex conglomeration of people and pathways.

Somehow, some way, it all came together and made it possible for you to read the sentence at the beginning of the post this evening.

“By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1Cor 15:10). Yes, and how marvelously labyrinthine the path is by which that grace comes to us each moment! How dare any human being claim independence, self-sufficiency, autonomy, self-reliance!

With just a moment of thought, it becomes obvious that we take an extraordinary number of things for granted with each breath we take, with each simple act we perform. We fail to appreciate how dependent we are every moment of every day on billions of things beyond our control. We also fail to grasp what amazing complexity lies behind the simple statement, “God blessed me.”

If we would realize for one instant how vast and intricate the web is that leads to us enjoying the blessings of life, we would never hear the words, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life” in the same way again.

Comments

  1. This myth has been BUSTED!

  2. Buford Hollis says:

    The technical theological term for this idea is pratityasamutpada, or dependent origination.

  3. Nineteenth century skepticism caused a lot of people to return to the Catholic church around the time of Newman. Ironically, Newman spent much of his time as a Catholic battling papal authority. That’s the give and take of being a part of a group: it provides stability, security and meaning while it threatens to crush individuality, identity, and personal being.

  4. Nearly 30 years ago, while canvassing churches to raise missionary support, I stopped at a church in the rural Midwest that had on its sign the following: “We are an Independent, Fundamental, Bible-believing, King James Only Baptist Church.”

    Since I had most of my support raised at that point and saw little likelihood that this church would be a good candidate, I decided to satisfy my curiosity a bit. When I asked the pastor which of the titles on the sign was most important to him, his response was “Independent!”

    Sigh…

    • Wow, that’s eerie. I just drove by that exact sign here in western Indiana. It’s either the same church or, even worse, a copycat.