Most people I know teach their children to serve, love and respect others as moral goods.
However, as I noted yesterday, a faulty view of freedom has emerged in the U.S. that has formed the basis for policies in the name of “freedom” that esteem and encourage the exact opposite.
Our freedom has become untethered from love, wisdom, respect and reverence for the common good. It is freedom for nothing more than freedom’s sake and, in the end, it deifies the self, dehumanizes the neighbor and destroys the common good.
And that political ideology works until it doesn’t.
It works until individual rights collide with one another and must be negotiated. Even more so, it works until life reveals to us that we are not individuals, separated from one another.
We are inseparable from each other. Our good and our harm are mutually intertwined. My freedom and your freedom are “inextricably linked,” to borrow a phrase from Martin Luther King Jr.
I don’t own air or rivers or public health or public spaces. That belongs to all of us.
Illimitable individualism fails us, not because it isn’t politically expedient, but because it is existentially untrue. Good political theory can’t spring from faulty anthropology. Our lives bleed into each other, oftentimes quite literally.
This is why our external freedom (freedom from) must be joined with an internal freedom (freedom for).
Our freedom must be tempered by compassion, deepened by wisdom and guided by love, or it is a faux freedom. Our freedom must lead us on the paths of life, or it’s not freedom we’re truly celebrating.
Many of the deadly sins of our culture – selfishness, greed, hubris, lying – wear the guise of “freedom” and pretend to be virtues rather than vices.
Even worse, many Christians have been discipled in this political ideology which, in the end, proves more formative than their faith does.
When one’s political ideology hinders one from loving God and neighbor, it is the political ideology that must change. Otherwise, what you have is an idol, not an ideology.
You can discern when an ideology has become an idol at the point when people begin to celebrate the very thing that is leading them towards death, praise juvenility as if it’s freedom and lay down their lives on an altar made of lies for the sake of a god who cares nothing for them or their neighbors.
Ironically, too many people in our culture are enslaved by their distorted view of freedom and their hollow “liberation” is precisely what keeps all of us, as well as the common good, in chains.
The battle cry of this new version of freedom – one void of meaning and sanity – appears to be, “Give us freedom AND give us death.”
There is a better way, though.
True freedom is not merely freedom from, but freedom for. It believes the truth and tells the truth and is free to go wherever the truth leads it.
It seeks the good of the neighbor. It strives for justice and equity. It cultivates life and the things that make for life. It wears a mask and receives the vaccine.
This is the freedom for which Christ has made us free, and it’s the sort of freedom that would liberate and heal us all, especially our children who have yet to be vaccinated.
Surely, the freedom of Christ would have us do nothing less.
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series. Part one is available here. A version of this article first appeared on the Second Baptist Little Rock staff blog. It is used with permission.
Pastor of Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.