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Blog

Freedom, Political and Otherwise

Brad Fruhauff

Image linked from Lone Wolf Librarian Editor-in-Chief Brad Fruhauff remarks on the present occasion.

Most churches I've attended have been diligently apolitical. My pastors may occasionally preach on values that a thinking person might rationally suppose should inform his or her political imagination, but they scrupulously avoid advocating specific positions or policies.

The logic seems to include the value of congregational unity over political unity -- most of my congregations have been politically diverse. But there's often also a sense that Christianity is somehow not connected to our political lives. It's certainly true that God and the spiritual life are profoundly more mysterious than any political body or policy could embody, and it's true that politics stands as a false idol for many atheists and believers alike, but certainly it's also true that Christians have something to offer our polity. Christianity is a religion of the oppressed and enslaved, but the spiritual freedom it offers ought to flow outward and downward into the political.

Surely that's why so many marry their Christianity to their American patriotism. While that often produces a co-dependency of religion upon politics (ideological nationalism), it is also, I think, a natural consequence of believing in a God who brings freedom.

That's why I appreciated my pastor's remarks yesterday about freedom. It is no small thing, she said, to be able to gather freely every Sunday and worship our God without fear of arrest, abuse, or worse. And it is no small thing to pass the Orthodox Jews and the Muslims and Hindus on the street en route to church, all of us freely pursuing our faiths.

And yet the complacency of American Christianity owes in large part to the comfort that our government and culture provides. It's an irony of the Christian story that our faith's commitment to the dignity of the individual before ultimate authority should have led to a secular authority displacing the ultimate.

Nonetheless, I find it personally valuable, come Independence Day, to reflect on not just the blessings of living in our democracy but also the great ideals enshrined at its heart. There's surely more we could do as a nation to align ourselves with God's will, but perhaps it's more important that we as Christians are empowered to do more to transform ourselves and our culture with God's love, mercy, peace, grace. The freedom we have transcends the social contract. Should all peoples someday become free, they will still long for the freedom offered by Christ, and that is a work we can begin in the present.