Friday, March 30, 2012

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

As an American, the idea of freedom is a very dear and near to me.  Liberty is inseparably laced into the American story:  Our eyes glaze over when we see a flag waving in the wind, or we swoon at the notion of brave and valiant soldiers defending our freedom with their very lives (And, for the most part, honorably so).  Indeed, America is flaunted as leader of the free world, and, in a sense, rightfully so.  However, behind our pageantry and star-spangled banners, we ought to be particularly cautious about what we actually mean when we say "freedom."

I want to propose a notion that will probably make me slightly less popular, especially with the star-spangled hearts of the world:  America is not the land of the free, nor is it the home of the brave.  America has freedom wrong.  Or at least it has true freedom wrong.  In our pledging allegiance and patriotic 4th of July displays, we seem to praise freedom, but fail to understand what freedom actually is.  Instead, we adopt a very comfortable (and rather bland) notion of freedom that can be rather harmful.  Allow me to explain:

I'm not out to bash our country.  Nor do I consider myself unpatriotic.  In fact, I consider myself extremely patriotic, so patriotic that I have the courage to take a critical look at even the most foundational  elements of our nation.  If we are to be a land of freedom, we ought to make sure we understand what freedom is.

As a matter of fact, no, it isn't.  Thanks
for asking.
You see, America has defined this notion of freedom as the ability to do whatever I want, whenever I want, however I want, and with whoever I want.  We enjoy the ability to express our will in nearly whatever way we want, provided it doesn't trample the will of another.  Sounds great right?  Wrong.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we ought to be slaves or ought to reject our civil freedom.  However, we run the risk of doing great damage if we think that just because we can do something means its good for us to do something.  In America, we see this sentiment that just because someone can do something, it must be all swell and good for them to do it and damn you to hell if you dare suggest that its wrong.  Take abortion.  Legal, yes, moral, absolutely not.  And yet, the most common claim of is supporters are "But its legal!  You can't challenge it because the law says we can do it!"  Total bullcrap.  Slavery was legal, but go present that argument to an abolitionist and see how he reacts to it.

The ability to do what we want is only good when we shape our wants to match what we ought to do. Unfortunately, we tend to try to do it the other way around, and we attempt to convince ourselves that we ought to only do what we want to do.  Terrible idea.

Merely doing what we want to do means we limit ourselves to the meager limits of our desires.  As nice as that sounds, its incredibly narrow and defeatingly shallow, and makes us slaves of instant gratification.  The moment we find something difficult or have a pang of doubt, we've already defeated ourselves.  We need to move beyond the selfish and shallow notion of "I'll do what I want because what I want is best for me"

Now, this isn't to say that we can't do what we want sometimes.  Our wants are legitimate and aren't necessarily bad, however, we must consider what we ought to do long before we consider what we want to do.  We need to stop thinking of the idea of "What's the most I can get away with?" and start thinking "What will build me into a better person?"  Only then can we be free.

Saints: True Patriots
Freedom is, in its truest sense, the unfettered ability to be freaking awesome.  When I'm at my free-est (is that a word?), I'm being an excellent human being, and doing so effortlessly.  I don't burden myself with concern over making the wrong choices, because I've disciplined and grown to be one who always makes the best possible choice.  Everything I do is good, everything I do promotes the well-being and happiness of all around me.  Now, if you've ever met me, you know that this is not at all the case.  I'm not entirely free.  In fact, I'm not really anywhere close.  I won't be free until Heaven.

Heaven, not the United States, is the land of the free and home of the brave.  In heaven, eternally free people live eternally free lives because they aren't shackled to any sort of disposition towards sin or evil.  They are made and remade Good in God's image.

And so, I, as an American, use my American freedom only in the extent it points me towards heavenly freedom.  I deny what I want when what I want isn't what I ought, because ultimately, I want to be truly free in heaven.  We all do.

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