When I was growing up, in a more innocent time, I often heard Janis Joplin reminiscing in her own peculiar way about Bobby McGee. Can you hear it? “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…” In other words, after you have lost everything else, probably including your life, then you are free. Well, what would you expect from a person who worked for Big Brother and the Holding Company?
As much as I love that song, I have to say that Joplin’s philosophy was wrong. Freedom does not come about through the loss of everything. Instead, everything that you have, everything that you are, everything that you can be comes through the doorway of freedom. Freedom is the beginning, not the end. Everyone is born free, with all the capabilities, capacity, and potential that God infused into them at the very beginning of life, nine months earlier. No one is born a slave. Freedom is given to us by God as an inherent part of human life and cannot be dislodged from its position.
From the moment of birth onward, however, freedom is degraded, assaulted, and infringed on by others. “Do as I say. Don’t do that. It’s the law. Submit. Comply! I have a gun and you’re the target. I’m from the government and I’m here to help you. Society says!” And on and on and on. Throughout life, we are constantly bombarded with messages that we do not own ourselves, but that someone else has a claim over one aspect or another of our health, wealth, and happiness. This is not freedom. It is bondage and we revel and glory in it because we compare ourselves with others around the world who are also in bondage, deluding ourselves into thinking that because we are allowed to live a certain way, we are free. Relatively speaking, we might be, but the fact remains that we still live in a state of bondage…to someone, in some way. America might be the freest country on Earth, as some assert, but that does not mean we are free.
We need to rise above this and change the way we think!
Most people believe that governments main reason for being, raison d’etre, is the protection of its citizens. Look at America today, though. Would you say that OUR government is protecting us? Compare our situation with that of America in 1782, immediately after the colonies broke free from Great Britain. How did those people survive and prosper without a huge, intrusive, overbearing, oppressive government telling them every move to make and “keeping them safe”? They were orders of magnitude freer than we are today, and they throve on the opportunity to reach for their potential, building a civilization and society that was the envy of the rest of the world…until it wasn’t. Today, America is viscerally hated in many parts of the world and, contrary to George W. Bush and his warmongering hordes of “christian” worshippers, it is not because we are free!
What, then, is freedom? More than anything else, freedom is potential and the liberty to become what we were created to be. Freedom is the ability to live the way we wish, the way we see fit, without interference from others, with only one qualification—we cannot use our freedom to control or restrict someone else in their own quest to reach their potential. We cannot use our freedom to unilaterally harm others. We cannot initiate aggression against someone else.
This concept takes the idea of freedom out of the legal realm into one of morality. It is a moral concept, dating back to the very beginning of humanity. “Thou shalt not steal!” thunders the eighth commandment and this prohibition is not restricted to physical properties but can be extended to every area of life. Anything taken from someone by force, fraud, or violence is an act of theft which transgresses against another’s freedom and is strictly prohibited.
Even more so, freedom is a spiritual issue. As spoken by Jesus Christ, “you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” What is truth? Five things, certainly not exhaustive.
- We are all created in the Image of God, Who is the very definition of freedom.
- We have the capacity and responsibility to control ourselves. Self-control is inherently part of man’s nature, and we are expected to adhere to it.
- We can take the beam out of our own eyes, so that we can see clearly to remove the speck out of another’s. This requires honest, consistent, and willing self-examination.
- We can love our neighbor as we do ourselves—if we want to.
- We can give and receive freely. The principle is that whatever we give to others eventually comes back to us, with interest, in good measure, pressed down, and running over—whether good or evil.
This is instructive. IF we love our neighbor as we do ourselves, then we will not attempt to control his actions or lifestyle BECAUSE we do not want our neighbor to control our actions and lifestyle. Neighbor, of course, means anyone in the world, not just those who live across the street or the person beside you. The problem with this is that we tend to believe that I do not need government to tell me how to live, but that my neighbor does. And, I’ll bet, that if I asked your neighbor whether he or you needed government, he would quickly say that he does not, but that you do. Repeated ad infinitum around the world. I do not need to be regulated, controlled, nor governed, but everyone else does, especially those I do not agree with or those I dislike. I control myself properly, but no one else does, therefore government must control them. Not me, them, and I know just the way it ought to be done. To paraphrase a popular saying, “I’m righteous and I vote.”
“Be the change you want to see in the world”, Gandhi is reputed to have said, and that advice holds true in this argument. We cannot lift other people up if we are constantly beating them down. We cannot love our neighbor as we should if we are constantly trying to control his behavior and actions. We cannot be free in our own lives if we refuse to allow others to be free.
Freedom is not free. There is a cost. That cost, which grates on and irritates so many people, is that we must give up all claims to control, regulate, govern, punish, or destroy those who want to live their own lives peacefully. Freedom does not originate from a set of rules. It is not granted by government. It begins, instead, with each individual person living out what is right and true in a spirit of love for all mankind.
The choice is ours to make. Think about it.