Letter to the Editor week of 3.8.16

Dear Editor,

There is a very popular claim among a certain segment of people in the United States of America that individual (and even collective) freedom does not depend on voting for any particular candidate or Party, because “God gives our freedom to us as a birthright”. Let us be authentically honest by admitting that this is a faith/belief claim, not a provable fact! It may actually be that a majority of people in this country believe this claim, but that does not change the reality of it being a faith/belief position, and not a provable fact. In the history of human life it is provably true that any person’s freedom has depended on the specific power structure and leadership in whatever tribe, or kingdom, or queendom, or sheikdom, or dictatorship, or empire, or democracy, or whatever other word used to describe the governing power structure of a country or region. Since most who make this claim about freedom being God-given are Christians, and since most Christians believe that all persons are created by God, then why is it that so many people across the world do not have that freedom? The answer can only be that freedom has to do with how human persons choose to act by using freedom-limiting power over others, or how persons choose or accept how they will be governed or ruled, regardless of what they claim to believe about freedom being God-given. In the USA the freedom for persons most definitely depends on whom we vote for and the laws they manage to enact.
Even within democracy freedom is not unlimited, for laws are limits to freedom, even when the vast majority accept the necessity of those laws because they understand and realize that anarchy results in only destructive and deadly chaotic catastrophe. The freedom to swing my fist ends where the other person’s nose begins—among many other things. We simply do not have unlimited freedom to do whatever we choose to do whenever we choose to do it, whether we believe freedom to be a God-given birthright, or whether we think freedom is a result of how we, or others with or without our consent, develop and sustain some system of governing or ruling within which we happen to live. This is the historical, demonstrable, unquestionably proven reality and fact of human existence on this planet, and it is way past time we understand, realize, and internalize this reality, most especially in terms of what it means when it comes to voting! For it determines whether women have freedom to make their own healthcare decisions—or whether persons of color get to exercise their right to vote unrestrained by targeted laws seeking to keep them from voting—or whether persons can achieve common sense, public safety gun regulations that will help keep more persons alive—or whether the virtually unlimited spending of money in political campaigns can be limited once again so that one person one vote actually means what it states!
It is also provably true that there is no “left” out there somewhere in the society seeking to make persons forget that there is God. Yes, there are atheists who do not believe in God, or gods, or spiritual essence of any kind, and some of them are quite vocal, even strongly assertive, and some small percentage even aggressive about it. It is their right to think so and speak their thoughts in this country where freedom of religion, or of no religion, is guaranteed in the laws of this nation, as stated within the Bill of Rights, in the First Amendment. So, if you are going to insist on the essentialness of the Second, then you should most definitely accept and abide by the First, most especially when you insist on the Constitution being the first and foremost document by which all must abide!
Many millions of liberals/progressives actually regularly participate in a faith/religious community, and there is even an organization called Faithful America that is publicly calling into question the Christian claims of certain presidential candidates because those claims do not in any way demonstrate connection to or influence from the teachings of Jesus, nor any connection to the ethic of any church’s social principles. Nor is there any attempt on the part of liberals/progressives to demand anyone believe that “men” (or women) have the right to tell you what is best for you. Liberals/progressives are just as concerned with real and responsible freedom as are any conservatives. So the very idea that all liberals/progressives, labeled “left” are “godless heathens” seeking to make persons stop believing in God is completely and totally wrong! And even if they were, it is still their freedom to live and speak their non-religion beliefs as they choose. To deny that right is to deny all religious rights!
Freedom is not an absolute right or power. There is freedom from and freedom for—freedom from certain prescribed and codified-into-law illegal actions—freedom for being responsible toward others within any good and worthy society and governing system. That has always been the factual reality throughout human existence in any governing system. To claim anything contrary to that actual, factual, reality truth is to claim a belief that you are entitled to believe, but not entitled to insist that everyone agree with what you believe, or abide by it, or accept it as provable fact when it cannot be proven, or even assert that it is the only truth when it is provable that it is not. The time has come and now is, most especially in this presidential election year, to be authentically honest about freedom, and quit pretending only one side of the political spectrum cares about it!

Love, grace, hope, joy, compassion, peace,
Rodney Noel Saunders
United Methodist Pastor, Retired