Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Can We Make an Idol of Freedom? (Edited and Revised)

It seems like at the heart of Christianity is the notion of a "kingdom." God is seen as King in Christianity and we are his servants working to fulfill his will "on earth as it is [already done] in heaven." This seems to fly in the face of the human freedom and individualism that we hold high in western society. Can we balance these two things? I am skeptical of this. In fact, I think that it might be very hard to distinguish individualism or personal freedom (speaking in an economic/political sense, not a moral sense) from self-idolatry. It seems like the "kingdom" mindset of Christianity demands a sense of collectivism- that we are seeking the greater good. We are advancing a cause bigger than ourselves. If that is the case, our own individual good is not as important, it has to be subservient to another cause. So demands for economic or political freedom seem to be contrary to our role as Christians.

I don't mean to imply by this that economic or political freedoms are wrong. But I do mean to imply that they are secondary, from a Christian standpoint, to the greater obligations that we have. So for instance, if we can argue that we have a genuine obligation as Christians to care for the less privileged members of our society, to ensure that they are provided for, then our economic freedom is subservient to this obligation. That doesn't mean we necessarily have to completely sacrifice economic freedom, but we also cannot demand freedom absolutely. Likewise, if we have an obligation as Christians to promote justice in this world, then our political liberties are subservient to that demand for justice. This does not mean we become slaves of the state. But we do sacrifice our own prerogatives for the good of others when necessary.

Unfortunately, I get the impression that many Christians feel like we can or should demand these liberties or freedoms absolutely- everything else must be sacrificed to preserve freedom. I think that this very quickly leads us to make an idol of our freedom, perhaps even to make an idol of ourselves. Any thoughts?

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