Part of being an American is saying that you love freedom.
We sing songs about freedom. We worship freedom. We wear denim jackets and bandanas and say “freedom isn’t free.” We all love freedom, and we’ll fight tooth and nail anyone who tries to stomp on freedom. We fight terrorists because terrorists are enemies of freedom. We’re also certain that the political party we don’t belong to is out to take our freedom.
But we don’t really love freedom. I used to think that the differences between American political parties were deep and cavernous. But they aren’t. Every Federalist, Jacksonian, Whig, Democrat and Republican has not really loved freedom.
I used to think I was a libertarian. But then I realized that I hate freedom too.
I Love Freedom…I’m Just Not In Love with Freedom
Okay, hate is a strong word. I don’t really hate freedom. But it got your attention.
Let’s take a little quiz. Just a short one. No need to even keep score. I just threw together a list of contemporary American issues.
Do you think gay marriage should be legal? How about marijuana? Cocaine? What about prostitution or gambling? Charlie Sheen? Should the Boy Scouts be forced to allow gay leaders, or girls? Should banks be able to run without much regulation? What about Walmart? Should guns be outlawed? How about SUVs? Should people be able to smoke or eat whatever they want, and then get public health care? Should Christians be able to pray aloud in schools, or put Nativity scenes in public parks? Should Westboro Baptist Church be allowed to picket military funerals? Should abortion be legal? What about the death penalty? Should collective bargaining be a part of public employment? Should illegal immigrants be granted amnesty?
Freedom Isn’t Free
After taking the quiz, chances are very good that:
No one believes everything in the list should be legal, and…
…very few of the issues in the list really, truly apply to you or impact you firsthand.
Chances are also very good that I divided all of you into about two groups that agree with one another on most topics. You can practically highlight most of those issues “red” or “blue,” based on your thinking. Most of these issues play some part in how people vote.
And with each of them, I asked you to make a decision about someone else’s freedom. You just made a bunch of decisions about the freedoms of people you don’t know. So if you think that the other political party is trying to take your freedom…well, you’re right.
Virtually every decision we make in politics, we’re pulling the strings on someone else’s freedom. It’s not that one political party “loves” freedom, and another “hates” it. They both love freedom…for the right people. Even when it comes to matters of life and death, like abortion or the death penalty, we just differ on who we think should have the freedom to live.
Stop! In the Name of Freedom!
We like to limit other people because we believe that everyone else’s freedoms hamper our own freedom. Or we believe that someone isn’t trustworthy or deserves to be free. Or we’re just offended by someone else’s freedom. If people were free to sunbathe nude in a tub full of hot dogs on their front lawn, most of us would be offended by that. Like I said, I used to think I was a Libertarian…until I thought of that little caveat.
As Christians, we have to take ownership of that phenomenon, especially if we’re going to insist that America is a Christian nation. We don’t even tolerate freedom among ourselves. We can’t easily tolerate another Christian whose beliefs differ from ours. Others’ beliefs or actions usually don’t have any impact on us. But we let it impact us.
Nearly all of the church’s history is a story of trying to limit others’ freedom of belief, or legislating morality, of outlawing things that offend us. Very little of our history has to do with convincing people to actually give up the freedoms that hurt them and keep them away from God. And what do we have to show for it? A world that is more offensive, more depraved, and maybe less free than ever. But at least, we can do as we wish…sort of.
So there’s my take. What do you think? Does our culture, our churches, our future depend on really preserving freedom, or preserving it…for the right people?