Agents of hostility and division are hard at work at a time when unity and cooperation are most crucial.
They claim they are defenders of freedom, but their quest is a misguided expression of “freedom” that serves no constructive purpose and increases danger.
Those who conceive of individual freedom as limitless have railed against any restrictions that are inconvenient, even if those restrictions put up safeguards that preserve the well-being of the majority of people.
Those who have been howling insist they are being oppressed and abused by restrictions that require wearing face masks and maintaining physical distancing.
It is not a tyrannical government that is imposing needless constraints on people. Rather, the measures have been put it place to avoid the catastrophic consequences.
COVID-19 has already claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world. Millions have been infected. Serious lingering effects from this highly infectious disease continue to be discovered.
The restrictions that have been put in place in the United States and many other countries are emergency measures with the sole intention of saving lives.
More lives have been lost in the U.S. than anywhere else on the planet, with the death toll reaching 100,000.
Without a vaccine, the deadly disease will continue to be a threat. The only other ways to hinder the spread of the horrible disease are found in the courses of action that have been put in place – the very measures being resisted by the lockdown protesters.
No one enjoys wearing a mask, not being able to go to work or being told to stay at home. No one wants businesses to have to stay closed, risking the possibility of bankruptcy. No one wants a recession.
But neither should we ignore the dangers of reopening our communities and workplaces prematurely.
While many U.S. states have started to slowly reopen their economies, Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned in Senate testimony in mid-May that the official coronavirus death toll in the U.S. is an undercount and that “the consequences could be really serious” if America relaxes safeguards against COVID-19 too abruptly.
“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control. Not only leading to some suffering and death, but it could even set you back on the road to get economic recovery,” Fauci said.
Yet misguided lockdown protesters have arrived at state capitals – often with guns in hand with the clear intent to threaten and intimidate lawmakers – demanding freedom.
Irrational anti-government impulses drive much of this movement. As one of the protester’s sign read, “Fear the gov’t, Not COVID-19!”
Certainly, there are times to be wary of the government. Measures that are put in place during emergencies can linger far beyond their legitimate usefulness.
But constructive, life-saving measures that have been implemented in response to the coronavirus are acts of wise governance.
The sentiments conveyed through these protests have nothing to do with real freedom, which can never disregard the safety of others just so it can stretch its wings.
The freedom that the lockdown protesters are demanding is not freedom at all. Rather, it is an expression of self-indulgent, shortsighted desire – a sort of enslavement to rash impulses and childish thinking.
If freedom does not serve a purpose beyond itself, it is a self-centered trivial thing. Freedom that is nothing more than the opportunity to follow my whims, to grasp my personal preferences and to feed my passing appetites is not a high and noble value.
What gives freedom its true worth is the end that freedom serves.
Real freedom is not found in simply doing what we want to do without regard to others. Rather, real freedom is found as we do what is for the good of others.
As Scripture says, “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants to one another” (Galatians 5:13).
The purpose of freedom does not reside in my self-satisfaction but in the pursuit of what it enhances in the lives of others. Genuine freedom is love at work.
A life lived in genuine freedom is a life lived that others might flourish, and in doing so, finding our own fulfilment.
Real freedom is not found merely in the act of choosing but in choosing well. And we only choose well when our choices are made so that life might thrive, not only our own life, but the lives of those around us as well.
So, let’s heed the warnings of the public health experts and support the continued restrictions they tell us are necessary for the time being.
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10), and neither does real freedom.
Craig M. Watts is the author of “Bowing Toward Babylon: The Nationalistic Subversion of Christian Worship in America” (Cascade, 2017). A graduate of the University of Michigan, Vanderbilt University and Boston University, over 200 of his articles and essays have appeared in a variety of religious publications.