mituns: (freiheit)
Popular sentiment these days would have one believe that the line Janis Joplin belts out in "Me and Bobby McGee" is the truth about freedom these days: Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. Of course, the insinuation is here that maybe it's better to be "attached" to something, that somehow freedom isn't all that it's cracked up to be. However, even in this simplistic rendering of "freedom", it goes to figure that if one has nothing left to lose, they are in the position of being open to gain anything.

In honor of Independence Day, in the U.S., the 4th of July, it does well to actually speak a little about freedom and why it is so important. In this sense, it's not that when one is "free", he or she has the ability to do "whatever you want", but more to the point, that one is not made a lifelong slave to forces outside of one's control. The Founding Fathers of the U.S. understood this keenly, having been subjects of the British Crown, and having felt that their calls for self-determination were increasingly falling upon deaf ears, they decided that it was imperative to throw off these bonds subjugating them.

This was not a decision that was taken lightly, and, if one is to believe the words of the Declaration of Independence, it was one made when American colonists felt as though there was no other recourse; that King George was a tyrant that could not be reasoned with, who felt that he was above the law that he, as King, was supposed to represent.

And so, reading through the Bill of Rights, for example, the unifying theme here is freedom. In Amendment 1, spelled out are the rights to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of association and assembly; in short, freedoms to do and say that which pleases him, which is not what a slave can do. With the 2nd Amendment, the point is less about guns or weapons, but about the right of someone to defend himself - after all, when one is a slave, one has no little to no right to assert himself, even if he is being gravely wronged. The 3rd Amendment, though many see it as kind of irrelevant these days also falls into this pattern, because it asserts that one's property cannot be used as though it is government property. It's no surprise that the 4th Amendment, then, deals more explicitly with the sovereignty of one's domain and property, for how much easier is it to enslave someone than by depriving one of his property? These are rights enumerated as general freedoms given to all.

Beginning with the 4th Amendment, we transition into rights granted persons suspected of law-breaking; the 4th amendment continues on to guarantee that searches and seizures can only be conducted with a warrant obtained on approved and specific suspicion, the 5th deals with the right not to self-incriminate, as well as a suspect being free of "double-jeopardy", that is, a person need only to face a court for an offense once, rather than possibly having the same offense haunt them even after being acquitted. The sixth, seventh, and eighth continue to deal with the rights of the accused, which, again is the sort of treatment one can only expect when all people are equal in the eyes of the law and when all people have their own little island of sovereignty when it comes to the respect of how individuals conduct their lives.

The 9th and 10th Amendments, when seen through the lens of freedom, deal with the relationship between the individual and the state; that the Constitution, in many senses, is a document restraining the government from claiming itself sovereign over the individual. This is why many see the Constitution as a document of "negative liberties".

Yet in all of this talk about freedom, why is it so important? Many people still find it easier to let the course of their lives be determined by others and find comfort in not taking the risks necessary to live as a free person. One answer can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which boldly states, "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." In short, God created man to be free, and therefore it is man's right not to be enslaved by those who would, by infringing on his God-given rights, would cause him to be enslaved.

Now, to those who have very little understanding of the Bible and of Christianity in general, it seems ludicrous to assert that God created man to be free. After all, isn't Christianity all about all the rules one must adhere to, seriously cramping the way one would want to live? Isn't the Bible more or less the handbook of all the "rules". And who can be expected to follow rules that were made all those years ago? Hasn't our society "matured" past that? I touched a little bit upon this in a previous post (, where basically I make the case that by following Christ, one finds lasting freedom.

Furthermore, I would also make the case that one of the overarching themes of the Bible, both Old Testament and New, is about freedom, both individual and societal, and the consequences of misusing this freedom is not just the downfall of individuals (say Adam or Samson) but also of nations (such as Old Testament Israel, but also Sodom and Gomorrah, for example). It may seem counter-intuitive that lasting freedom comes from submission to God, but in this same theme of freedom, we see in the New Testament that through Christ, we can attain the ultimate freedom; in this life, the freedom to be able to exercise self-determination, self-reliance, and self-accountability, and in the next the freedom that heaven is. Surely it is quite unique on the face of the earth that a nation should be established that espouses this God-given freedom as the basis of its founding!

Surely, too, this ultimate freedom is something so precious that not only is it worth fighting for, but also worth dying for, because we know that even death will have no hold on us and that there is little else that we can "give" our posterity that is so precious. Nothing left to lose, indeed!
mituns: (freiheit)
One day, when I was a senior in college I ended up talking with an older, international student in the basement of the library. We talked about a range of things and I think that it was interesting to him to get the perspective of an American, but by the time I had to make it to my next class (or whatever it was I was going to) I was pretty creeped out, and I made sure I ducked into a building I really wasn't headed to so that this man wouldn't know where I was going.

The reason for my discomfort? In the course of the conversation, he, of course, was trying to ascertain my status. (I say "of course" because it's a very run-of-the-mill question in college.) The conversation went on, but he started to try to make the point that it was only with the experience of sex could one have any true "perspective" of the world. This wasn't some passing comment or throwaway line that he was parroting, but a sentiment that he seemed to be really stuck on.

Now, the sentiment itself is creepy enough, but probably the creepier part is that the insinuation seemed to be "Hey girl, why don't you leave the library with me and let me give you some "perspective" on the world." Of course, after relaying the story to some of my close friends, gaining "perspective" came to be a running joke among us.

As creepy as the whole encounter was, I can't necessarily say that this man was doing anything but repeating what secular morality would have people believe. In days past, Descartes reasoned, "I think, therefore I am," which, among other things, indicates the supremacy of reason in the human being. These days, that mantra seems to have been changed to "I have sex, therefore I am," which is a complete reversal of the supremacy of the intellect to the supremacy of emotion.

At least with Descartes', the premise is universal; even if we don't understand exactly what goes on in the minds of people who have had extensive brain injuries, for example, it's difficult to say that there is nothing going on there. However, with the latter premise, not only does it fail logically, as there is no "magic perspective" or "personhood" granted to one for having sex, it doesn't take into account that there are tons of people, such as children, who shouldn't be having sex.

The Biblical standard for sex is that it's something that is reserved for married couples. For as long as I can remember, popular culture has rebelled against this, characterizing it as prudish and unrealistic, while feeding us a constant diet of why it is "okay" for people to have sex whenever they want. After all, One doesn't even need to go into the moral implications, however, to understand that when sex is reserved for marriage, it brings both partners into an equality that merely "succumbing to the urge" cannot.

I sincerely believe that the promotion of all sorts of promiscuous sexual behavior is not just one way to try to mock Christian morality, but also is a means to make people slaves of their own passions. After all, a person who has been trained to "do what feels good" has hardly built up the sort of moral fortitude needed to forgo pleasure when times would call upon this individual to stick to logic to accomplish a "higher" mission.
mituns: (freiheit)
One of the themes that Paul expounds on in the Bible is of freedom in Christ; that Christians, despite whatever situation they may find themselves in, are free people.

This flies in the face of today's conventional wisdom, which would have everyone believe that religion - and in particular, Christianity - is a bunch of rules that are put together to infringe on a person's freedom (and fun). Furthermore, even among political "conservatives" there is a wide breach between those who view freedom more in the sense of a Biblical standard, and those more libertarian-leaning friends who view freedom as just being able to do what one wants.

I am old enough now to have watched friends of mine get into train-wreck situations in large part due to making one bad decision after another. Yes, that is their right to do. However, as a result, they are not happier people, and they now are subject to a lot less freedom (due to bankruptcies, divorces, emotional baggage and the like) than they would have been had they followed the path toward Christ. Would it have been an easy road? No, certainly not. However, especially in the long run, striving toward virtue, particularly Christian virtue, pays off.

It seems that most sin is like addiction; one cannot just sin and be done with it, but that sins get repeated over and over again. In this life of sin, the choices that are open to us narrow, and we are left, picking between the "lesser" of evils, barring that we don't go the path of complete repentance. (And even in repentance, there are times when we still must live with the consequences of what was done forever.)

A life lived in Christ, on the other hand, is one that sets out a framework for the individual as well as a society to live in harmony. In the course of history, I do not believe that there is any other type of society other than those based on Christian ideals that allows all members - Christians or not - to be able to reap such bountiful rewards of citizenship. However, as Christians, we cannot be fooled into thinking that this is merely the result of happenstance, and we must be ready to defend this framework not only because of our own faith, but because we want to see as many people as possible be able to fulfill their potential. When this system is attacked, it is not because this system is not "inclusive" enough, but rather because there are so many who are more interested in trying to amass power among a people who are enslaved. The easiest way to get there, though, is first to make a person slave to his own vices. To do that, Christian virtue must be done away with. (Again, with mind to our libertarian friends, Ayn Rand was wrong, and excellence does not necessarily beget virtue.)

In the case of Hans and Sophie Scholl, whose Christian faith was the key motivation behind standing up against, both of them left this earthly realm with the word "freedom" on their lips. Yes, they were standing up for the freedom of Germany, but in so doing, found a freedom that is much deeper and which lasts forever. This is the freedom of which Paul writes: freedom of the individual, freedom of spirit, freedom in Christ.


mituns: (Default)

September 2013

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