Saturday, January 28, 2012

“Freedom” is the word in our national debates – and in need of a wider, even worldwide context

The woman in the blue brassiere was screaming in pain as she was dragged away by the Egyptian police, her ripped black burka trailing behind her. It was a highly dramatic scene in an Arab Spring filled with crowds roaring for “Freedom!” It is a majestic word with an almost sacred history to us – but its usage can be peculiar.

We all should feel a need to declare our context of “freedom.” My father told stories to me as a boy about hunting trips. “There was a turkey roost where they would come by the thousands at dusk and literally darkened the sky. We shot into it for ten years” – it was against state game laws – but they could get away with it, and did. Regulation: ugh. You know. Then he would shake his head sadly, “We thought it would never end.” It did. When I was in early middle age we went back one year and the turkeys had made a come back thanks to a respect for limitations and I got my limit. That did not diminish the sadder and wiser tone to my father’s voice when he would re-tell that story. 

Sometimes the current use of the word, “freedom,” appears to have a religious justification, as well. That is peculiar in that “freedom,” as an abstract principle is a seldom used a biblical idea. At times it seemed as if the context is more of a desire to act out, ignoring the reality of the “all about me” characterizing sin. “Free” is the much used biblical word, most often describing a person’s religious experiences. 

Freedom as a term in the context of religion was much used in the time of Luther and the Reformation. In Annelie’s and my  discussions about the subject, my memory served – or swerved – more towards “trust God and sin bravely,” while Annelie’s memory of table talks ran more towards, “sin boldly and confess bravely.” I think she  caught more of what is going on in the now-a-days political assertions. Thinking about Luther and his marriage to a nun who had rebelled against a cloister reminds me of that young woman in the blue bra. I think we are recycling a 500 year old revolution in world wide ways now. Just as bloody.

In terms of Paul, in his earlier years, while yet being called “Saul,” freedom was much in the context of forgiveness. As he grew in grace from “being in Christ,” becoming “free” was more in the context of internalizing this gift. The reality of that grace he increasingly lived out – well, mostly. My sympathies. My understanding.

My father was in politics. In his later career he was listed in “Who’s Who in American politics.” He occasionally would tell me that “politics was the art of being friendly.” He never ran for an office higher than he would be able to call the voters by their first names. You would have liked my father.

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