America & Freedom & Christians

Now that life post-election has finally quieted down and we can all move forward (some of us to trying to make texas a country again, some of us to a life free of caring about punditry) I wanted to take a second and think a bit about a word that we hear a lot of during the election season. Really, we hear it a lot in the US. We hear a lot about freedom.

Most of the references to freedom I think took hold when I was a kid. It was common place for other 3rd graders in my class to do ridiculous things under the guise of “it’s a free country.” As though whether or not our country was communist had to do with it being a good idea to eat glue or not share crayons.

As I grew up though, especially around the time of 9/11 and the Iraq/Afghanistan/war on terror freedom was a word that meant new things. It inevitably meant “the thing we have that other countries want” and “a significant reason that we’re willing to kill other people”.

Later on, freedom began to mean the ability to choose without being forced. I’m free because I can do whatever I want. This is freedom.

About 4 years ago or so I read a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in which he talked about freedom. He made the point that  freedom must be framed by two questions:  Freedom from what? and Freedom for what?

Having read this I noted that the question of what freedom meant was truly complicated. Freedom for the sake of freedom now seems to be a meaningless circle. Why does freedom for the sake of freedom matter? It’s like saying I wear shoes so that I can show everyone that I wear shoes.

Rather, the point is that shoes allow me to go places without cutting my feet. In the same way, freedom allows me to choose.

We’re given freedom to choose somethings versus others. To choose habits of the heart and mind and body that begin to form us into who we are becoming.

The fascinating thing is that in the church, I don’t know that we have really been given much about this. Well, at least I hadn’t. Maybe you did.

When we start to think about God as the source of all life. As the infinite source of goodness, truth, justice, mercy, and love…I think this should give us pause when we connect these attributes with the One whom Christians proclaim gave us the ability to choose. What does/did God want us to choose?

I get frustrated when Christians frame the life of discipleship in terms of getting to heaven. I don’t think that eternal paradise is the point in and of itself, just as freedom is not the point in and of itself. Yes. The bible speaks about a post-death life with God, but the key elements of eternal life are already present now: God and other people.

If the point of heaven is not heaven itself, but instead spending time with God and other people. It would seem to me that at least one huge part of giving people freedom was so that we would come to love God and to be God’s friends.

Think about the greatest commandment “Love the Lord…” It’s not “be obedient to God out of fear” or “be God’s friend so He’ll give you cool shit” it’s about love. Could it be that God gave us freedom in the desire that we would use it to choose to love Him? If I have a friend, my friend is not measured to me in terms of usefulness or output. My friend is a person with whom I have decided and must decide again and again to share life. There is love of some kind in the mix there. I think this is the core of what’s happening in life with freedom/choice before God.

We get the opportunity as Christians to know the greatest good in existence. The God that is infinite goodness, mercy, and justice gave us freedom to choose to be His friends. Moreover He went to the greatest lengths possible so that we would be truly without obstacle in doing so.

I think this is what Paul was talking about when he said, “It is for freedom that Christ set us free…” I realize this sounds like the opposite of what I was saying, but dig a bit deeper. What does Paul mean by freedom? Think about it…What else could freedom be for in the eyes of the apostle?

I just wanted to think about all of that. I think that in America the church hasn’t pushed back enough against political definitions of freedom.

I think Five Iron Frenzy has had it right for years now: