04 July 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

Each year this day reminds me that Christians have much to tell America about the nature of true freedom, even while they are grateful for a country which allows them the liberty to practice their faith pretty much as they wish and need. Too often today Freedom is thought of as the ability to do anything we want. It is the quintessential value of the narcissist.

And yet, within Christian thought and praxis freedom is the power to be the persons we are called to be. It is the direct counterpart of Divine sovereignty and is other-centered. I believe our founding fathers had a keen sense of this, but today, it is a sense Americans often lack. Those of us who celebrate the freedom of Christians can help recover a sense of this necessary value by embracing it more authentically ourselves. Not least we can practice a freedom which is integrally linked to correlative obligations and exists for the sake of all; that is, it involves an obligation to be there for the other, most especially the least and poorest among us.

Today the United States is in danger of choosing to "protect" our freedom by refusing to open ourselves to "the other". We have forgotten that we are free only insofar as we are open to loving others, to sharing our lives and our freedom with the other, the alien. Like love, personal freedom is lost when we fail to extend it to others and make "neighbors" of them. Once we build walls against the other so too have we walled ourselves into the narrow confines of our own fear, ignorance, or selfishness. Authentic freedom always seeks the freedom of the other. It is expansive and, to  some extent, missionary in nature. While the boundaries of American freedom involve borders and finite resources which must be honored and husbanded, its heart is global and so must its vulnerability be. 

 All good wishes on this anniversary of the birthday of our Nation! May God empower us to live up to the obligations of the freedom, both personal and national, which we recognize as both Divine gift and human responsibility.