Here it is, July 4, Independence Day in the U.S.A. Last Sunday, the pastor at our Lutheran Church gave a sermon entitled “Freedom,” and it got me thinking. We are indeed “free” in many ways, but I also believe we have a long way to go to be free as individuals and as a society.
Pastor Dave (Hall) was astute in recognizing that most of us are still enslaved by our jobs, our debts, our addictions, and other self-imposed limitations. We have freedom of choice, but too often our choices are not in our best interest, at least not in the long term. We are still too concerned with keeping up appearances, and often go into debt to create the impression that we are doing just fine economically. Privately, we worry about the credit monster we have created, and perhaps take up an addiction to help us cope.
Are we not also slaves of politics, our employers, the marketplace, even religion? Do we cling tightly to pre-conceived notions, stereotypes, and outdated beliefs because we fear change or feel threatened by the different beliefs of others? Do we keep working at a job we cannot stand because we must have the paycheck and health insurance coverage? Newsflash: Your employer is not going to be loyal to you if the shareholders or board of directors demand cost-cutting changes.
I think being free means taking risks, thinking outside the box (or cubicle or condo), keeping an open mind, and nurturing empathy. It means sacrifice, deciding what material things you can do without. Freedom in essence, then, is what our society claims to value, but which culture also does everything in its power to stifle.
Freedom is what this very blog is all about: Celebrating alternative landscapes, alternative energy, public transportation, continuing education, public discourse on meaningful subjects. Do I always practice what I preach? Of course not. No one is perfect, but that is not the point. Finding out what works for you is what freedom should be about, even if it flies in the face of convention. Especially if it flies in the face of convention.
Go out this evening and enjoy yourself. Indulge in a baseball game and eat food that is bad for you. My wife and I are going to do so ourselves. We have collectively earned the right to celebrate. Tomorrow, give yourself, your family, friends, and the country a reason to be optimistic about the future. Change what doesn’t work for you and encourage others to be fearless in pursuing their own destiny.
The only thing we should be a slave to is God’s (however you define that) purpose for our lives. You’ll know it because you won’t be able to turn away from it, even if it isn’t the most popular road to success. Especially if it isn’t a popular road. Take care, but take up your cause.