By Scott Keith –
Today, we celebrate our independence. Today, we shoot fireworks into the air, dress in red, white, and blue, drink American beer, and try to remember what makes the 4th of July such a big deal. Today, I wonder why I’m no longer patriotic. Today, I look around me and wonder if those who are celebrating so intently even know why they celebrate. (Watch this at your own risk: FAIL – Americans Don’t Know Why We Celebrate 4th of July!) Today, I ask myself why I no longer feel free.
This week, I have been assaulted by the news that in California my second amendment rights are being decimated. Furthermore, this move by California legislatures is one in a long line of moves that reacts to criminal activity by punishing law-abiding citizens. The idea that if we pass laws “ensuring” criminals won’t get guns assumes that these criminals will obey the new laws we have now passed. Newsflash: They’re criminals! Definitionally, a criminal is one who does not obey laws. Yet my freedom is now constrained in favor of the illusion of safety provided by these new gun and ammo laws. I don’t feel free!
Also this week, the military has been told that transgender troops must be allowed to serve. While I feel a deep compassion for those who struggle with the mental illness we have come to call transgenderism, it seems absurd to me to believe that allowing them to serve in the most powerful military ever known to man is a good idea. This issue is at best distracting and at its worst quite dangerous. If someone is struggling with the most fundamental aspect of their identity, their gender, does it seem wise to put them in positions where they may need to make snap life and death decisions that may affect them and those around them? I think not! I’m told time and again that if I don’t start to believe that this behavior is normal, I’m a bigot. My thoughts are now being mandated. I don’t feel free!
California is in the midst of passing a law that will limit the religious liberties of any organization that accepts state aid. Caleb Keith wrote about this last week and, if I do say so myself, he did so marvelously. In fact, I think that I agree with every word he wrote. But I must ask myself: does the fact that State (and soon federal) governments are coming after religious institutions for being innately religious scare me a little? Answer: Hell yes it does. Maybe these schools should never have taken the money (the Libertarian side of me says that they should not have), but at the time they took the money in good faith according to the rules presented to them. They were free to be “believers” and to create an institution that would educate other believers. In the future, I think, none of these schools will have that freedom unless they completely break from the government teat. This saddens me. I don’t feel free!
Also this week, the popular dating website, Christian Mingle, was told by a Federal Court that they now must accept homosexual clients and assist them to get dates via their website. This private company, which receives no federal monies, is being told that as a private entity, they cannot define for themselves a particular set of values and pursue a client base which at least outwardly adheres to those values. What? Bakeries are not allowed to refuse to bake a cake for certain customers; dating sites have to accept all comers. These are not “essential services” like food retailers and housing agents. What happened to the good old phrase, “We maintain the right to refuse service to anyone”? That right is gone along with so many others we took for granted in the past. I don’t feel free!
Have you traveled lately? I travel all the time, and if one thing makes my lack of freedom apparent, it is the airport security line. My right to unlawful search and seizure is completely gone once I buy a ticket to ride on an airplane. I don’t feel that I am assumed innocent of anything. Rather, the presumption is mine, and your, guilt. My papers are inspected as are my bags and my body. Especially when I’m at the airport, I don’t feel free!
All of this causes me to ask: What is freedom? I don’t know for sure. It seems that when defining the freedom of citizens, our Constitution follows the following argument: 1) Individuals have rights; 2) These rights are natural, not merely legal or conventional; 3) The state has an obligation to respect and protect these rights; and 4) In order to secure these rights, the state’s constitutional structure is arranged so as to provide checks on governmental power to infringe upon these rights.
The above is all well and good, but is it freedom? I don’t think so. “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1) Christ’s will for you is that you enjoy the freedom only found in Him. Our right to possess a firearm, whether or not any of us can serve in the military, what happens when we go to the airport, and our particular dating practices are not nearly so crucial as whether we stand fast in the freedom won for us on account of Christ.
Thus, the gospel is the proclamation and consciousness of complete freedom. It is not a matter of little pieces or little rights. God moves in Christ to raise you up as a new man – a completely free man – not just to outward rights but as a new free person. When the old Adam is put to death, you and I are set free from captivity, free from our attempts at self-salvation, legalism, and tyranny. “And Luther, for one, meant this quite literally. One is absolutely free. It is a total state.” (Gerhard Forde, Where God Meets Man)
So, it matters little if I feel free because in Christ I am free indeed.
Happy 4th of July to all of our Jagged Mafia!