I am my own and I am mine. In the West, we live by this mantra. We proclaim it with exuberance and pride. We write stories and sing about our freedom to be ourselves, to follow our own hearts, to not be restrained or limited by anything outside of ourselves. We’ve cut ourselves free. But what if instead of breaking the chains, we’ve cut off the oxygen?

It’s not hard to see that this is the case. Pervasive loneliness and isolation, growing suicide rates, desperate attempts to distract ourselves and mute questions of ultimacy — all point to something amiss in the West’s narrative of personal autonomy. Rutledge Etheridge III, in his book God Breathed: Connecting through Scripture to God, Others, the Natural World, and Yourself, challenges this narrative and mantra. Addressing young adults who have grown up with no experience, or bad experiences, in the church, Etheridge argues that we’ve cut ourselves off from the transcendent — and we’re suffocating.

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