It was 2003 and I was in Los Angeles, CA for two months acting and auditioning during what is called “pilot season” – a time when all of the new TV shows are being filmed. It was also the year when the US military launched their attacks on Iraq beginning what was called “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Being in Los Angeles at that time was very interesting. I can remember being glued to the TV watching the “Shock and Awe” campaign take place as I read article after article online about what was happening a world away. I was mesmerized and fascinated. It was around the same time that the threat of domestic attacks were in the air. We, like many others, scrambled around to find plastic sheeting and duct tape at the nearest hardware store in case of a biological and chemical attack. As we were told, prime targets were large apartment buildings (check) and large cities (check).
What I remember the most were the massive protests in LA (I think this picture is from 2007, but it looks about the same). We lived fairly close to Hollywood, so mom and I decided to drive down to see everything. It was like nothing I had ever seen. There were people of every race and age. My most vivid memory was a group of protesters dressed up like dead Iraqi civilians. They had fake blood all over their clothing, powder white faces like ghosts and they moved around in slow motion, moaning. It was quite disturbing to me – only a 13 year old at the time. Needless to say, I was a bit overwhelmed but really I was outraged.
I felt more comfortable once we stumbled upon a group of pro-war protesters. They donned camo and held American flags high with hand-drawn signs with slogans like, “Kill ‘Em All and Let God Sort ‘Em Out!” I can remember reaching over and honking the horn at them and then hanging out of the window to cry out in approval! But the pro-war protesters were few and far between. After all, I thought, Los Angeles probably had more liberals and atheists than patriotic Americans who feared God! I mean, c’mon, this many people against freedom?! I think I even told my mom that if 13 year olds could enlist, I would immediately.
Now, I sit here listening to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A” with much different feelings. The chills I get on my arms and down my spine are very different than the chills I would get 10 years ago. Here are some of the lyrics.
“‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.”
“And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.”
Two Kinds of Freedom
More and more, I am growing uncomfortable with our obsession with freedom. Obsession with freedom, you say? Yes. And to take it further, I think some of us are so preoccupied with freedom that it has become idolatrous – a god we worship and something that is adored obsessively. This is where we must delineate between national/wordly/American freedom and the freedom that the Kingdom of God brings. Some might not even know the difference and that, in and of itself, is a problem.
American/worldly freedom believes in certain “unalienable” right such as “personal liberty” – as seen in the Declaration of Independence. We are free to do what ever we choose – own guns, say whatever we want, assembly where ever we want, etc. This type of freedom also agrees that we have a right not to be overtaken and if threatened, we defend ourselves with whatever means possible – either on a personal level (someone breaks in your home and you shoot them) and on a national/societal level (engaging in/starting wars).
Then there is the freedom that was established by Jesus. Paul writes to the Galatians that, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” He goes on to say a little later that we are actually “called” to be free (Galatians 5:1, 13). Freedom is a theme that is consistently found throughout the whole Bible.
Many Christians will use the theme of freedom found in the Bible as evidence that we must protect our “God given freedom” at all costs and spread it to the whole world. It is almost as if making disciples of Jesus and spreading the good news of the Kingdom of God has been replaced with proclaiming freedom to the whole world! And we do this regardless of cost because, after all, “freedom isn’t free”…right?
No Freedom = Less Blessed?
I am grateful to live in a country that values freedom. But what about the other countries and what about the other believers who are not free? What are we to think of them? Are they any less blessed by God because of their lack of political, societal and/or national freedom? What about the believers in the Bible who were persecuted and definitely not free? Was it not considered “pure joy” when they were persecuted? Paul carried on, even when imprisoned, writing letters, witnessing and wallowing in joy.
Honestly, was national, political, societal and religious freedom ever a concern for the early church? Is that something they would have fought and killed for and lusted over?
The Ultimate Sacrifice
The “ultimate sacrifice” has been made. Enough blood has been shed. Enough people have died and it was only one person – Jesus. And it was not completed or won by a “power over” tactic like bombs, invasions and bullets, but by his death…for his enemies!
And this freedom lasts. This freedom is not threatened by liberals, conservatives, gays, Muslims, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, the President of the USA, the Illuminati, the loss of “freedom” or even death. This kind of freedom looks like taking second place to your enemies and considering them worth dying for.
A Freedom Worth The Cost
As representatives of Jesus, the one who willingly laid down his life for his enemies, we are called to imitate him. Let us remember what Kingdom we live in and what freedom we are to trust.
And so he question remains – what freedom do we trust in? And is freedom ever worth killing for? As Christians, should we not come under and serve our enemies and those threatening us rather than bucking up and killing them? This could mean death, detention or slavery, but wouldn’t we get the opportunity to look like Jesus while doing it?