Saturday, July 4, 2020
Liberty and responsibility. . .
The overreach of those who, in the name of protecting us, restrict our rights will have to be sorted out unless we as people are willing to let it become permanent. The power of media not simply to report but to shape public opinion is one that deserves our constant review. The authority of government to close down churches and restrict what churches do (such as Holy Communion) demands that reconsideration. The culture of violence that pervades those who are supposed to restrain it as well as those who turn protest into mobs and looting cannot be allowed to stand. The desire to sanitize the public square from offensive image or speech and to eliminate this from history is not laudable but laughable -- yet this is exactly what must be done by those who want to hijack our liberty and control our thoughts as well as our words and works.
Racism is a terrible stain upon our liberty. It is an offense against God as well as against mankind. Yet those who cry out against institutional racism forget that institutions are not the sources or enforcers of such prejudice. Only people can be racist and only people can be prejudiced. Those people can use institutions to further their racism and expand the control of their prejudice but institutions are what we make them to be. To tear down worthy institutions because unworthy people have used them wrongly is not simply a mistake but a fool's endeavor. How much better to enlist the institutions of our land in the pursuit of equal justice before the law, equal opportunity in the marketplace, and equal status in employment and commerce!
While it is certainly true that prejudice can be recognized though it is difficult for it to be eradicated, that should not prevent us from working as best we are able to look past our prejudices and make sure that the full benefit of freedom be realized -- people judged by their words and their works, by their character and their conscience, and by their selflessness and service. Freedom is an ugly thing when it is used simply to pursue self-interest. Our liberty was not won nor defended by those who sought simply to act for their own self-interest. Our nation cannot be sustained by selfishness without compassion or by self-centered pursuit of the individual against everyone else. We survive by being a community in which we share common values and fulfill common responsibilities to each other, to the legacy we received from those who went before, and to the future we bequeath to those who follow. The delicate balance between individual freedom, personal responsibility, and community is what we must work to preserve.
On this Fourth of July, amid fireworks and hot dogs and a cold beer, we might take time to remember this. As we celebrate in our backyards and, where we are able, with our neighbors, we might dare to remember that freedom is cherished best when people work together to preserve its gift and take personal responsibility for their careful stewardship of its treasure and for passing on to those who follow us not simply liberty but an informed understanding of what it takes to keep it alive.