Monday, July 13, 2009

Liberate Yourself

Over the weekend, a dear friend of mine sent an email to myself and many others offering a lament and warning about the abuse of our freedoms. I didn't see it myself, but on the 4th of July, while we were marching in Flagstaff and giving thanks to GOD for our freedom and considering the ways by which we should honor HIM, I am told an anti-government protest took place featuring a man carrying a sign referring to President Obama as "the great Satan."

Our Constitution gave this person the right to carry this sign. That was not in dispute. But as my friend asked, was this a wise use of liberty? No.

If you remember the opening moments of the 1971 TV movie, "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story," (which was the precursor to The Waltons TV series) you may recall a child being scolded for mocking President Franklin Roosevelt. Even if you don't remember that scene, how many of you were reprimanded for showing disrespect toward a sitting President?

That movie was set in the Great Depression, and truth be told, that period of time had plenty of anti-government speech, subversive elements and radio rabblerousers like Father Coughlin. But since then, technology has made it easier for all of us to vent publicly, and a series of government failures -- Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, the House Bank and Post Office scandals, the Clinton scandals, Abu Ghraib, etc. -- have given us plenty of excuses to say, "Why should we respect our leaders? They don't respect us!"

So now we have a hyperpartisan America, where moderation and civility is not only passe, it's as a sign of weakness. "Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous," observed Margaret Thatcher. "You get knocked down by the traffic from both sides."

Several months ago, I told you about the shock and awe of some of my colleagues after they attended a town hall meeting on a minor annexation project -- as citizens, mind you, not the media -- and watched it degrade into an incendiary spectacle. They were amazed to see the level of venom. I wasn't. This is the bitter harvest of all our rotten seeds, the talk radio-ization of American politics all the way down to the local level. We shouldn't wonder what happened.

What's more, many of the people behind the caustic speech in the media call themselves Christians. I guess they forgot James 1:25-27 (NIV):
But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it —- he will be blessed in what he does.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Our Founding Fathers realized freedom came from GOD. But they also realized sin has consequences. They knew abuse of freedom would lead to disaster. Our system of government and the freedoms guaranteed by it are still very much a great experiment. If we as free Americans allow ourselves to be "polluted by the world" and abuse our freedoms, we will lose them. We will give our government every reason to rein us in and restrict us beyond what we can bear, and with GOD's permission. We won't even be able to protest it.

As my friend pointed out in the Bible, Luke 6:45 (NIV) says:
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
All of us are going to gripe about this or that in the government, and let's be clear: it's not a sin to disagree with your leaders. But when hate slips into the argument, and you seethe with anger to the point of characterizing someone as Satan or wanting to see them destroyed, that's not righteous anger.

Furthermore, I find it distressing that some groups practice this kind of hate and claim to have GOD on their side. Over the weekend, I watched the wonderful movie Cromwell on DVD in which the title character, the leader of the Puritans in the English Civil war, speaks this line: "Every man who wages war believes GOD is on his side. I'll warrant GOD should often wonder who is on his."

As Bishop Fulton J. Sheen observed, true freedom as defined by GOD isn't doing what you want, but doing what you ought. That's the freedom our Founding Fathers risked their lives for. If liberty shall survive, it will be because we liberate ourselves from the radicals and the hate-mongers and all those who let otherwise noble purposes -- like protecting and strengthening this nation and its freedoms -- degrade into numbing incivility.

I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh all through my college years. I don't anymore. I don't miss him. I keep away from partisan blogs and the cable pundit shows. I don't have any desire to jump into the fray. I pray each day for GOD to give me wisdom and purify my heart, and yet I still struggle from time to time. We all will, but we've got to keep on trying.

Be free, but be noble, My Dear Readers.

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