Taking Liberties

"Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Corinthians 3:17)

As an American, the concept of the Fourth of July—the day our country celebrated its independence from British rule in 1776—is something I've known about since I was a child. I remember being taught the rudiments of American history at my little Christian Montessori school in Montrose, California. An idyllic town that belied the busyness of the surrounding area. Greater Los Angeles was a melting pot of twenty-million people at the time. From San Diego up to Sacramento, my dad realized the enormity of the sprawl in which he found our family, and so decided to move all of us up to the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon. The time was the early nineties and the Gulf War was in full swing. And while all of this uniquely American activity swirled around me, my eight year old mind only barely was able to process the periphery of this information.

I still don't have the benefit of firsthand outside perspective when it comes to my homeland, what can I say?

Much has changed in the twenty years I've lived in this relatively small community. Both foreign and domestic. Globalization seems to have made a full circuit and come back around, entering into my consciousness in spite of the insulated atmosphere of the valley and not just because of the ubiquity of the internet. My father is a Marine. He enlisted during Vietnam, not to spite my grandfather (a naval officer and doctor), no. More out of contrast and in needing something different.When you're raised on naval bases, unless it's really for you, one tends to rebel. In his way, he contributed what he could, laying his life down for the country. While he never went overseas, he was willing to die. I find it miraculous (for me) that he'd be part of the three percent of enlistees who were never deployed. All this aside, my younger brother, Ian, followed in his (big yellow*) footsteps after High School. Having enjoyed (and also slogged through) the rigors of boot camp, he took his place alongside so many "devil dogs". I am the only member of our family not to have served in the armed forces. I don't feel anything untoward. I am myself.

How can I say this? I'm not a pacifist. Not as easily defined under an overarching (and polarizing) term. But I'm not a jingoist, either. And if it seems like I'm skirting my point, I'm not (I almost said I was). What I'm trying to do is cast the topic of "freedom" and "liberty" as the Bible defines it and not just from an inordinately "patriotic" standpoint. But I don't want to sound un-patriotic. My brother did what he did with eyes wide open and while we are incredibly close in spite of being ten years apart, he didn't ask me before enlisting. I don't hold this against him in the slightest. A moment-by-moment...what's the word? Ah. *snaps fingers* liberty pervaded our father's raising us to where we were free to make our own decisions. I wouldn't have had it any other way--even when in my late teens I felt I'd been on the wrong track for years.

And this is what God gives us in Christ. The freedom to believe is yours. The freedom to do. You have the right, from wheresoever in this world you may be reading this, to reach for God, or to relegate Him—as an idea, a figment—to the basement of history. The choice is yours.

But as a Christian? I must say that in times and locales of persecution, the Gospel does its best work. The overarching "freedom to believe" is in many ways superfluous. It's when we're granted the luxury to do as we choose that we run into grey areas and problems of so-called entitlement and surfeiting. These three things: persecution, entitlement and surfeiting are widespread in this country. Three things that aren't in keeping with the ethos of God's order. While one camp (hardline atheists) defends the primacy of sense, the fundamentalist evangelical religion acts in ways that are beyond senseless (I don't think I need to cite examples). I scratch my head. The statements of Jesus are leveled at somewhere in between and while love is the great equalizer, "liberty" doesn't always turn out and churn out model citizens.

"As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God." (1 Peter 2:16)

"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:36)

*Not a reference to cowardice. Recruits each step from the bus onto one of the two-dozen pairs of bright yellow, oversized footprints painted on the receiving bay at MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) in San Diego, California. To be sure, they're big shoes to fill and the recruit earns the title "United States Marine" only after completing the grueling three-month boot camp regimen. I know my brother did it just as much for himself as he did "for God and country". I hear it in his voice.