Religion: Can We Know God (29)-Freedom, Liberty, Their Differences with Equality

   Freedom, it seems to me, cannot be actual freedom, or free at all, if by freedom, we mean only the opportunity to live outside chains. Opportunity is capricious, even whimsical, and may seem so random as to be ridiculous. I live a mostly free live because I have the opportunity to be an American, white and male, born in the last half of the twentieth century in the Southwestern section of the United States. I can claim no credit for any of these happenings. Each is an opportunity. None of them, individually or collectively, can be called a right.

   Freedom, it seems to me, lacks a certain value (though anyone who has the opportunity to  live free by birth or randomness would be foolish to relinquish it for any reason or to any foe or friend) if by freedom we mean only the right or opportunity to cooperate with some powerful, repugnant force. In the same spirit, freedom lacks a certain quality (though it has a quality in and of itself undeniably present in every age of man) if by freedom we mean only the right to suffer equally under the felt acts of seen and larger forces. The people who lost their life's earnings in the Enron debacle or the Bernie Madoff Pyramid Scheme were free to put their money elsewhere, until they were not, or until the necessary information was held back from them.

    So, is the heart of freedom justice or equality or liberty? Or, some mystical union of the three, justice, equality and liberty?

   Freedom requires justice, then, in the same way justice requires equality under the law and the soul liberty necessary to pursue justice until it ends in freedom for all who want to act on it.

   Human government can be freeing but it cannot guarantee or even offer liberty or equality. Most human government trips over its own feet while it tries to deliver justice. Human philanthropy is selective, not chivalrous, and dooms most of its recipients to keep their place in order to maintain the dole. Government and charity fail because they are mercenary at worst and mendacious at best.

   So, there must be religion to provide soul freedom, first, arising then in a life long quest for justice for all, so that liberty is available to the prisoner and equality to the overworked migrant and the overstressed financier. Jesus stresses this freedom in His longest recorded talk about freedom in Matthew 25:31f. Therein, soul freedom comes as a complete surprise to some, who may not have adopted all the sectarian marks of a follower but who lived a life somehow set on justice, liberty and equality, which form the basis of their faith. Amazingly, Jesus finds this pluralism to be a saving faith, while simple adoption of the forms and formulas is less than necessary to be welcome in the Kingdom of Freed People.

   "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to Him," so says Simon Peter, the Apostle in Acts 10:34,35. If you going to believe in freedom, you have to believe in God, cuts across all the bars and barriers to justice, equality and liberty. All freedom is from God, then, and all of freedom and all of freedom's fellows depend entirely on the generosity and lawfulness of God made plain in Jesus, the Christ.

   Freedom, then, is not about opportunity, caprice or whimsy, but the revealed will of God, available to all persons. The Christian is not better than another person because he is born in a Christian nation or somehow reached with the Word of God in a happenstance most persons might describe as dead, dumb luck.  He is blessed and fortunate, this Christian, because he overcomes mere opportunity (which we called mercenary and mendacious above) to  become a person of good acts, which God will not ignore.  

More on this subject tomorrow, God being our help.

Opinions expressed here are mine alone.


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