Nobody Really Loves Freedom

March 16, 2011

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?

29 responses to Nobody Really Loves Freedom

  1. Hi Matt,

    “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican”.

    Yes indeed!

    Unto the pure, all things are pure; everybody else thinks like I do.


  2. I still say write a book! You have a great deal to share with the world. Oh, if the tub was full of hot-dogs no one would no you were nude.

  3. This is a little off subject, but in real love there is freedom. One aspect of the parable of the prodigal son that recently struck me is that the father allowed his son to leave. He gave him half of his estate and did not force him to stay. Imagine how the story might have been different if the father told him, “You will not leave. I will not give you my money. You will stay and work.” Then the son would have been like a servant. The father loved the son enough that he allowed him to first leave and then welcomed him without any questions in his return.
    Jeremy @ confessionsofalegalist recently posted..Faith like a child

    • But Jeremy, if you’re married, you wouldn’t let your wife just sleep around with anyone in the name of “real love” and “freedom” would you?
      Charlie Chang recently posted..271 Not eating radioactive sushi

      • Surely he wouldn’t, but I think what we can take from the prodigal son is that at the beginning of the story, the son doesn’t love his father. He insults him. At the end of the story, he willingly gives up the freedom his father gave him because he comes to an understanding of his father’s love for him and his love for his father. It’s the same with marriage – we willingly give up the freedom to sleep with other people. And it should be the same with the church. A person who comes to an understanding of God and repents of the freedoms they have been abusing is better off than someone who stays an unbeliever, but has his freedoms taken away.

        • If my wife was to sleep around I would be upset and would demand that she change or else. If she didn’t change I might divorce her and have nothing to do with her. My anger and demands would be largely based on loving myself and not her. And this is what is so amazing about God’s relationship with us. I cheat on him all the time, and yet he is patient and kind and merciful. There is nothing that can separate me from his love for me. Despite my infidelity, he forgives me.

  4. Reminds me of Easy Rider.

    “They’re not scared of you. They’re scared of what you represent.”

    “Hey, man, all we represent to them is people who need a haircut.”

    “Oh, no, what you represent to them is freedom.”

    “What’s wrong with freedom, man? That’s what it’s all about.”

    “Oh, yeah, that’s right. That’s what’s it’s all about, all right. But talkin’ about it and bein’ it, that’s two different things. I mean, it’s real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free, ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy killin’ and maimin’ to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em.”

    Of course since Wyatt and Billy went after the Big Money, turns out they weren’t really as free as they thought they were.
    Travis Mamone recently posted..Lenten Meditation- Quit Playing Religion Games

  5. I guess this is why doctrinal witch hunts get me so frustrated. We have to allow disagreement, because if we don’t, the agreement we achieve is not true agreement. Conservative pastors and churches have to allow their congregants to read and hear other perspectives, because untested, uninformed belief is often a weak belief. You have to allow people to stray a bit, even if it means they come to a different conclusion, because faith doesn’t come by being the default, the only option. It comes by being found, being the best option.
    David N. recently posted..My Apparent Failure to Keep My Preschooler from Becoming a Fundamentalist

  6. Great blog. The message of the Gospel is this: Behavior that is destructive to us, or to society, is pretty much forbidden by the word of God – that is GOOD for us. Some of the things in your list are in that category. Some of these things should be non-issues for Christians, but amazingly there is still a debate for things like abortion in the church, as well as some of the others mentioned.

    What you didn’t mention is that freedom comes with responsibility. For instance legalizing mind altering drugs – hey even alcohol or gambling are not the best way to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. Hell, we can’t even seem to make it with McDonald’s being legal.

    Real freedom is understanding boundaries, and because we can’t, we need Jesus. Just about every biblical writer had a chance to live in utter depravity from Moses to Daniel, Noah, Gideon, David, Paul and even Jesus and the 12. There were other religions, alcohol, greed, corruption, poverty, atheism, polytheism and witchcraft. Israel, however; prospered under righteous Kings, and of course did not under unrighteous ones.

    Christian are to be self-regulated (with God’s help)!

    When it come to sunbathing in a tub of hot dogs, I guess it depends on the person weight – I am sure that no one wants to see me in that position. Some regulation is good. 😉
    David recently posted..Whats the Freakin Point – Hope- Heroine and Cheesecake!

    • “We can’t even make it with McDonald’s being legal” Love that line!
      tandemingtroll recently posted..In my own little world

    • I have been attending a church in which decisions where taken for me when I as actually only asking for counsel regarding taking a decision on my own. I felt my boundaries were crossed. I believe a man doesn’t build virtue from having its power to take decision taken away in the name of ”Church Authority”. It is reassuring to be reminded that God remains Sovereign in all this but I still believe this action from my church was not out of the right Spirit. What are your thoughts?

  7. “Charlie Sheen?” He he he, still funny to me. :-p
    Alisha recently posted..Flowers for Zoe or Joy in Zion

  8. “All men are moral. It’s his neighbor that is not.” – John Steinbeck
    katdish recently posted..Here but not

  9. This is good, man. Really good. I’ve gotta chew on this for a while.
    Jason recently posted..Day 74- God as loving father

  10. I see your point. One man’s freedom is excess to another.

    BtW, why the hotdogs?
    Helen recently posted..The Future- Its in the Cards or Not

    • Well, sunbathing nude in a tub on the front lawn *might* be allowed in a really freedom-loving society, but the hotdogs just puts it over the top. I don’t see anyone voting for that, and if someone wants that, they should probably live on an island.

  11. True words my friend. Very few people would ever want to live in a completely “free” society. That would mean complete anarchy-no rules at all. It’s a very good reminder that whatever side of the aisle we identify with, we don’t have a monopoly on freedom.
    Cara recently posted..Ethical Eating Challenge – January Results

  12. The freedom that Christ has won for us is the freedom from religion. From having to make opurselves acceptable, or MORE acceptable before God. We are free to be God’s children, warts and all.

    And now that we are free from all that self-focused, ladder climbing spirituality…we are free to live and love our neighbors to the best of our abilities…or sometimes NOT the best of our abilities.
    Steve Martin recently posted..Differing views of the Christian Life

  13. I only *like* freedom….as a friend.
    Jamie the Very Worst Missionary recently posted..Scabs

  14. I love freedom, just not the way it has come to be interpreted…
    I love the freedom that exists to choose to follow God, because my love for Him is then that much more real to me. I don’t think I would ever choose to be a mindless drone.

    Still, one of my favorite analogies is this: Our walk as Christians is like a drive on a mountain road. We have been instructed how to drive (going to church, reading the Bible), yet we can still choose to not heed the side-rail and speed limits. In our sinful states, we think the thrill of driving fast is what will please us most. If we think about it, though, the final destination is worth pursuing so much more.

    God has given us ‘religion’ and government (the side-rails and speed limit) to ensure we really get the best view. Unfortunately, we have let petty differences and manipulative self-motivations ruin our ‘road’ with potholes, to make going faster or going off road that much more appealing.

    • I love my very intelligent wife!

      One thing I would tweak with this analogy is in explaining religion and government. Religion is like the speed limit. We have rules to help guide us, but we are free to not follow them and it can lead to problems. Government is like the rails in that they are a physical force that attempts to control us, but religion/rules/laws can still be utilized within it.
      Daniel M. Klem recently posted..I Love Temptation!

      • Where is the line between church authority and proper speed limit? In other words…When does that become unhealthy controlling behaviors?

  15. As always, Matt, succintly, humorously awesome.

    This argument reminds me of the relativism argument that truth is all relative…except, of course, for my assertion that truth is all relative. Thank God (literally) that Christ’s freedom is not mankind’s “freedom.”

  16. I think our culture, churches, country, etc., do depend on preserving freedoms. However, once you take out morality in the name of freedom you end up with chaos. When you have a majority saying AMerica is a Christian nation, and a new, large majority saying it isn’t, chaos will probably ensue if the wounds inflicted go unhealed.

    Likewise, I do disagree with you about others’ actions not impacting us at all. When gay marriage is legalized, for instance, then many activist groups will work to get curriculums in schools to teach kids at a young age that it is completely fine and should not be objected whatsoever.

    But in many ways people’s beliefs and actions really don’t affect us.

    What’s your take, Matt? How would you respond to your last sentence?
    Brooklyn Cravens recently posted..I love Confessions

  17. The problem with these kinds of things lay in the very view of what this country is. Most people think this nation is a democracy, most people would be dead wrong. This country was founded as and will always be run as a Republic.

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