freedom

Since 9/11, we’ve often heard President Bush state that freedom is a “gift of the Almighty,” that God desires all people to be free. It is common knowledge that the President’s theological belief on this particular issue has undergirded much of this country’s foreign policy and military action over the last six years.

I just read a nice piece over at ChristianityToday.com about the President’s latest declaration of his theology of freedom, this time to a group of conservative reporters on Tuesday. As you’ll see from CT’s report, the response was immediate and mixed, with some calling Bush’s statements heretical. (including many conservatives)

For those who don’t have time to read the CT article (which I’d recommend doing), here’s what Bush told the reporters:

The other debate is whether or not it is a hopeless venture to encourage the spread of liberty. Most of you all around this table are much better historians than I am. And people have said, you know, this is Wilsonian, it’s hopelessly idealistic. One, it is idealistic, to this extent: It’s idealistic to believe people long to be free. And nothing will change my belief. I come at it many different ways. Really not primarily from a political science perspective, frankly; it’s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t exist.

Is he right? Is freedom — and I assume he means political and physical freedom, like the Iraqis now have (sorry, couldn’t resist) — an inherent right given to humanity by God?

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mitch on July 19, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    I don’t like long answers to questions like this. So I’m just going to say that I think freedom has many definitions depending on geographical location. Whether or not a country has an established Western-type democracy is irrelevant. American standards of ‘freedom’ should not be the primary rubric when deciding on the freedom of another country.

    Honestly, I just think it’s really, really, really dangerous ‘freeing’ someone (or an entire country, for that matter) in the name of a spiritual entity or because “I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom.” What does that even mean?!

    As much as we might think the U.S. is a Christian nation &emdash; it isn’t. And bringing a country to war based on your personal perception of freedom and faith is extremely flimsy.

    While I believe everyone deserves ‘freedom,’ I don’t really know what freedom is. Is ultimate human freedom living in America? For some, yes. For some, no. It’s all extremely relative.

    I’m so frustrated with all of this.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Paul on July 19, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    I am in favor of peace. I think the Kingdom is peace filled.

    The whole thing is a mess and I don’t like my experience of being in “churches” where pastors were praying for the death and destruction of the enemy. I also don’t like my expereince of being in churches where pastors prayed for the downfall of George Bush and all republicans.

    I think Jesus had people trying to drag him into the political arguments of the day. Some how he could turn it on its head without answering the question and I don’t see much of that happening. Christians on the left and right are escalating anger toward each other.

    I am not a fan of the president and his politics. I hate the war. It seems to me that even if the reasons for getting into the war are greed and power, there is still a sense in which people who are under oppression and living without justice are being freed from that. But it is not being done with beauty and I think the heart of Jesus is broken for our military, for the civilians in Iraq, for those of us who are caught in the middle.

    I don’t have any answers, but I don’t think it matters. My role is to incarnate Christ in my community. The same is true for Iraqi Christians and Christians in the US Military. More than anything God wants them to live with beauty.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Steve on July 19, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Paul – You started to get at an answer to my question toward the end of your comment.

    More than anything God wants them to live with beauty.

    I’d like you to unpack that a little more, Paul. It’s an intriguing idea and I think I get what you’re saying, but develop your idea a little more if you don’t mind. Then answer this question:

    Can a human “live with beauty,” but also be in physical and/or political captivity?

    —————-

    Mitch – Thanks for the comment. Your discomfort with “freedom” being equated with the American experience is refreshing.

    Too often “freedom” (as it relates to foreign policy) — and even evangelism / missions — equals “making them just like us.”

    Reply

  4. I think Jesus wants spiritual and physical freedom for us, but I have a problem when is applied to goverment. Jesus talked about a kingdom not a democracy. And I have no idea how freedom fits into a kingdom model.

    Reply

  5. I think personal liberties are a desire of God’s heart. He desires that human beings not live oppressed by any of the principalities and powers, but he’s actually freed us from those powers, whether we live under a government that respects those freedoms or not.

    However, I just had an interesting thought. Many on the right promote the government forcing freedom through military force, in order to acheive their morality (that says people should be free). Those on the left don’t support Bush’s wars (they have their own… bosnia or vietnam anyone?) but they also promote use of force to enforce their own morality… whether its single payer health insurance, welfare, etc. They don’t come in with armies, but you better freakin believe if someone doesn’t want to pay taxes to support a welfare state (for whatever reason) the IRS is coming with guns drawn and will kill them if they resist.

    That’s why government is not part of the redemption structure. They must use force to initiate their ideas. Which is why, I think, in our society where we get to choose our leaders, we should vote for those that allow people the ability to make decisions on their own. This gives the church the greatest ability to critique the principalities and powers that are unjust in the world.

    Reply

  6. freedom is the ability to choose whom we will serve. beyond that we are not free. freedom in Christ is not freedom to do as we choose. freedom from Christ is merely the illusion of freedom. we serve either one master or another…

    as far as i can tell this doesn’t change regardless of which form of government you live under.

    from my perspective we either live under a yoke of tyranny or a yoke of justice…

    and there is only one who is just.

    as far as the bill of rights go, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness seems impossible. what is life? how does one define it? it sounds noble and austere but millions are denied it before they are born right here in the good ol’ US of A.

    what is liberty? is that like the liberty to drive unbuckled? is it like the liberty to let the grass grow tall in my yard? is that like the liberty to live on the street in NYC, LA, or bean town? are we talking about the liberty to marry whomever we wish?

    and the pursuit of happiness? come on! talk about the road to perdition! how many families and lives and hopes and dreams have fallen before the pursuit of happiness?

    no, true freedom is the freedom to choose whom we will serve. there is really only one good choice…

    and it ain’t democracy

    Reply

  7. Posted by Connor on July 20, 2007 at 10:04 am

    “Is freedom an inherent right given to humanity by God?”

    I’m not sure the question even makes sense. We give each other rights by deciding that we should have these rights. We may dress them up with talk of “inalienable rights” or whatnot, but that doesn’t make it so. Rights have to be enforced or they make not sense and I haven’t noticed any all encompassing right that God is enforcing. Maybe freedom to choose, but even that is fairly limited.

    Reply

  8. This conversation is way too postmodern.

    “Everything is meaningless”

    I love how concepts that you think you understand as concrete, tend to eventually become much more abstract. And it scares me to death.

    Reply

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