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 (http://mituns.dreamwidth.org/8604.html), 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: (Default)
It is rare thing to enter the bedroom of a teenager without noticing posters on the walls of movie stars, bands, or sports figures. Once upon a time, when I was much younger, an adult asked me, "Why do this? It doesn't make any sense. It's not like the person in the picture cares about you." As a child, I had no good answer, but as an adult, I'd like to commit a few comments on the subject here.

As members of the human race, we are wired to be social beings. We come into this world almost completely helpless, and only have one or two things which we do well. Life after that is an incredible learning experience for children, but they rely on others - especially parents - to teach them things. As a result, a child who has parents who take an interest in his education, no matter what the economic level, does better than a child whose parents are indifferent.

As children grow older, they start to admire others outside of their immediate circle for doing uncommon things. If it's a sports figure, seeing a poster might remind the person how exciting it is to watch him play or it might be an encouragement to compete in the same sport. A poster of a band might remind someone of the feelings one has listening to the band's music. Movie stars represent a type of lifestyle people dream about living.

This type of thing is hardly reserved for adolescents. All over, we see images of people as reminders to us as to what they achieved. In the grand scheme of things, the accomplishments of a baseball team or its members are not terribly noteworthy, but if one goes to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play, it's not just baseball one will see, but also statues of notable people who have been with the Cubs' organization. Of course, the statues are placed in honor of the people depicted, but they wouldn't be placed there if there wasn't some sort of emotional response that people have by viewing them.

Just as learning is for a baby, the extent of human knowledge is social and cumulative. To be an airplane engineer, for example, is not to say that one has to do as the Wright Brothers did and create a totally new aircraft. A young person studying aircraft engineering will learn early on an incredible amount of information that is being handed down to him by others, be it directly or by books. Because so much can be learned quickly this way, one does not need to live longer than everybody else to learn more than others. In doing this, one becomes indebted to the ones who have built that foundation, but there also comes the understanding that we might be providing a little more to the generations following us. There are really few who have made the most incredible breakthroughs, but this is the reason that one might find a picture or bust of Shakespeare in a library.

(This line of thinking reminds me of sermon I once heard where the priest talked about discussing history with his cat, making the point today's cats live their lives in the same manner that cats always have; there are no "great cats of feline history", nor do cats build monuments or memorials to cats of yore.)

One of the very important things that I believe that Protestant churches have lost is the sense of the worshipper being part of the community of saints. Especially in the United States, Protestant churches tend to be very plain, and more than that, in not recognizing more than a handful of early saints, I believe that it becomes more difficult for people to understand that Christianity is not something that is solely personal but something precious that has been shared and passed on through the ages. By surrounding ourselves with icons, for example, one has a constant reminder that there have come before us champions of the Faith, people who struggled through their lives but stayed on the path to holiness, in days long past, as well as in days much more recent.

The images of people we don't personally know that we put around us are a good indication as to what we like, what we respect, and what we aspire to. Therefore, we need to be very careful who we choose to look to - and look up to - in the most physical sense. A child cannot explain why he wants to have these pictures around him, but it is a very powerful way of reminding him not only of history, but the potential he brings to the present.

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September 2013

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