What It Really Means To Be Free

Tomorrow is Independence Day. This is a day we celebrate in America as the day we adopted the Declaration of Independence, and declaring independence as a nation from Great Britain. Though I believe this day means something very different for many people today, I think it will be even more symbolic this year for many than any other year in my lifetime. This may be one of the most significant celebrations of freedom since the days of Martin Luther King. There have been years where there were plenty of things to cause us to celebrate freedom for sure, but nothing quite as widespread and significant for our culture than last week’s ruling on same-sex marriage. I know for a very large group of people, many who are my friends, that this day will be a very special day. But for me, it will mean something slightly different.

It’s a difficult and challenging thing to discuss hot topics on the internet. Such a broad platform. Such a vast audience and an incomprehensible probability that you will take something I’ve said in a way I may not have intended. Every time I post a new entry, I run the risk of blowback and damage control for myself, and the people, organizations, and ministries I associate with. So why run the risk? Why do it at all? I ask myself these questions often. I never want to be talking just to be talking. I’m not trying to add to the noise of the internet. The endless murmuring of society. But sometimes it seems that way.

I hope this post comes across differently. I hope my life comes across differently. This post will be dedicated to what I will be considering on the day we celebrate our freedom. There will be hot topics discussed. There will be controversial things. But I hope you will consider my words, and not the interpreted tone. Know that I approach this with a great love for my country, my faith, and the people in my life of all backgrounds, religious affiliation or lack thereof, etc.

The Land Of the Mostly Free

As we all celebrate freedom tomorrow, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we are not all free. We are all free in the broad sense, but many of us are a slave to something in this country. In fact, we are all slaves to someone if we have a job, or go to school, or owe a debt to anyone. Though some are slaves to much more serious things. Be it sex slavery, which is a very serious thing even in my city and the regional area of the country I live in, or many other grave acts of violence and oppression to many entire groups in America. We are a land of the mostly free. I acknowledge that I’m speaking as a Caucasian male in my late 20s. I couldn’t be more privileged stereotypically in this country. But I don’t feel very free most of the time. I’m not making light of those whose rights truly are hindered. I’m saying that I choose to sympathize with those whose rights are hindered. Because if we are not equal in our rights as a nation, then we are not truly free as a nation. I sympathize with those who encounter hardships because of oppression due to their race, sexual orientation, or whatever else, because I believe that is what Jesus would do. I think Jesus cares a great deal for those who are oppressed, and He loves them. Since that is the faith I subscribe my life to, I choose to follow the heart of it’s God.

The Great Gay Marriage Debate

This is by far the top trending topic of the country right now. #SCOTUSmarriage, #gaymarriage, #teens, and #kissing are among the top ten trending hashtags over the last week, with #LoveWins being the hashtag that successfully broke the internet with over 5.5 million tweets on Friday alone, according to Twitter. Overall,  between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Friday there were over 10 million tweets about the Supreme Court decision. I think it’s safe to say that it’s a nation-wide conversation.

Now you might think you know where I’m going with this conversation, but try to keep an open mind. This isn’t a conversation about whether or not I think homosexuality is right or wrong and whether I agree with it. Though that is often what people try to turn the conversation into. No, I’d rather talk about how Christians choose to respond to it. This conversation will fit quite nicely as a precursor to a new blog series I am starting on Monday about a survey of American Christianity.

America is a country that is founded on the basis of being a free country. Present day Americans have inaccurately presumed this country was founded on Christian beliefs. That is false. It was founded by men who claimed the Christian faith, but made very clear that for America to truly be free, it must be neutral on all fronts, especially religious. If this were a Christian nation, it would be no better than countries in the middle-east that claim Islam as their religion and force it’s citizens to adhere to all standards, rules, and regulations as per the religion dictates. You may be thinking that with Christianity it would be different because Christianity is “nothing like Islam!” Christianity is free, and loving, and blah blah blah. But I’d like to refer to radicalism that is prevalent in all religions. It is always radicalism that, though it may be an anomaly, will always define a religion to the masses. Consider radical Islam, or radical Christianity here in America today. It’s radicalism that always gets the media coverage and the national, and even international platform. If that still doesn’t convince you, I’d refer you back to the reign of Constantine. If you don’t know about him, look it up.

It is on the fact of America being free of religious affiliation, and the ideal of neutrality that I base my own personal views when it comes to decisions being made for our country. I’m actually more ashamed when certain political parties try to use faith as a tactic to get more agendas passed. Though I’m no liberal by any means. I don’t believe any party should use the opinions of a few, or the faith of any to make decisions on a greater population. I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me, so I wouldn’t impose my beliefs on someone else. Imposing our beliefs on someone isn’t the way to make them believe, it’s how we make them hate us.

As we celebrate tomorrow, I hope we can remember that this country, though it has it’s shortcomings, is still pretty great in the grand scheme of things. And America will only remain great as long as it remains free. We are dancing dangerously close on all fronts to attacking our own freedom from within. We have great issues to face as a nation, but if we don’t face them together, we will all fail each other.

So my official stance on same-sex anything is that I extend love. I’m not intimidated by homosexuality, nor am I homophobic by any means. We can make the greatest impact when we choose to acknowledge that it doesn’t matter what a court rules, and extend boundless love to all people. If you are one that stands for marriage between a man and a woman, that is fine. That is your right as an American. No one is saying you are not allowed to believe that. But if you believe that God ordained marriage to be between a man and a woman exclusively, then you should stop fighting the battle with those who disagree with you. I’ve heard it said that “we have to fight for the institution that God Himself created.” But if you think you have to fight, then you must think very little of God. He can fight His own battles. He commands us not to judge, but to love. He alone holds the right to judge, and He will judge accordingly. So if you truly believe in what God has commanded, ordained, and created, then leave it to God to decide who He judges, or you might find yourself in line for judgment!

If we choose to stop hurling hate like grenades at everyone we think should endure the wrath of God, while we stand safely behind our bunkers of self-righteousness, we might just see that we could be the mightiest, most eternally impactful forces of love this world has ever seen. If Jesus’ authority and power is behind your words and actions, you’ll know. So let’s try to align ourselves with Scripture, and who Jesus truly is, and we just might get to see what it REALLY looks like when #LoveWins.

The Big Picture

In the end, all that truly matters is that we learn to love one another and be unified despite our background, beliefs, or religious affiliation. This was never meant to be a religious conversation as much as one about humanity and our need for each other despite our differences. It became a conversation about Christianity when we decided not to be what God called us to be. But the reality is that It’s this unity and freedom that can make America great again. We used to aspire to so much more. In a time of so much division, we have the ability to choose love, unity, and respect for our fellow man. Let us fall back to humility and strive for greatness again.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite moments of television, because this says it better than I ever could.

I wish you a happy and safe Independence Day! May we all share in good food, good weather, good fireworks, and no alien invasions with all people who enjoy the rights of a free country this weekend!

*The statements and opinions of this blog post are solely that of the author, and do not reflect any parties, organizations, or ministries affiliated. 


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