The first post in this series dealt with the word ‘faith’ and what it means and how we typically trust ideas and people when it comes down to it. This week, I would like to reflect on the word ‘freedom’ and the surrounding discussions of what it means today.
Freedom, in the media anyway, is often synonymous with independence and today, it’s much more indicative of an individualistic and negative stance rather than positive and communal. Let me explain.
At a communal level, we are often afraid of freedom, so church leaders will say things like: ‘you can’t preach grace without restrictions, people will go off the rails,’ and educators will say, ‘you can’t teach morality, people should be free to choose.’ And frankly, both views need corrected. Both statements reflect a strictly individualistic mentality and a fear based (negative) mentality that drives people to see freedom as primarily “to live life without shackles of any kind”. We want to do what we want, whenever we want–at least that’s the talk on the street. Whether the topic is abortion, homosexual civil unions, or cable television, we want choice and we want that choice to be seen as our ‘right’. But, we don’t want people who threaten us to have choice–why? because we are afraid of them and we want to have the freedom to do as we want.
So, what gets diminished in this discussion is the relationship of sacrifice to freedom. Christ set us free (see Galatians) through His sacrificial love, most visibly demonstrated on the cross, but daily demonstrated to the poor and marginalized. And a more subtle aspect that gets lost is that freedom only happens in community and within boundaries. Freedom without boundaries is anarchy and that does not work at all. Freedom outside community is isolation or loneliness. So, the discussion is important.
Os Guinness has written a provocative book entitled ‘A Free People’s Suicide’ which discusses our own sustainable freedom as a country and as a community. I believe he does such a good job that I am posting a talk he has done below. How we use the F word we call freedom does have profound implications and as Guinness points out, some versions of freedom are simply not sustainable.