July 4 and the Nature of Freedom


Today is the fourth of July.  The traditional theme of this day is freedom, in so far as it was the day our ancestors in this country declared themselves free from the domination of Great Britain.

There are two components to freedom.  There is freedom “from” something, and there is freedom “for” something.  The second component is often overlooked in our conversation about freedom.  We tend to be preoccupied with the “freedom from” aspect:  we want to be free from… having anyone tell us how we are to think, act, live… from health and financial insecurities.

But freedom can’t be fully addressed until we deal with what are we free for?  Self-indulgence?  Endless consumption?  Getting what we want?

If these are the objects of our freedom, than we have simply fallen under another form, more devious form of tyranny.

Faith keeps before us what we are free for:  to live creatively and lovingly.   To live not only for ourselves but for all people, indeed all life.  To offer ourselves as instruments of healing, reconciliation and peacemaking.

We have too readily identified the strength of our nation with our military and economic power — the things we use to assure we will be “free from” external tyranny.   Freedom in this sense is nothing more than the freedom to do whatever we choose.  We would be better served to attempt to identify our strength in moral integrity — clarity of focus in regards to what our nation stands for.  Things like basic human rights, care for the poor and the sick, as well as care for the earth;  tolerance, humility and respect for others, and creating a truly inclusive and cooperative community.

The so-called “war on terror” will not be won primarily through military and economic strength.  It will be won overtime by the consistency of our nation’s witness to higher ideals.

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