True Freedom: Radical and Offensive to Society?

I often find myself biting my tongue during political and spiritual discussions, especially when they are interrelated, because I take a very non-apologetic and entirely spiritual approach to my viewpoints. Often, to avoid offending others and getting into heated discussions I simply back out of the conversations. Whether this is the right thing to do or not, I’d like to share some of my views specifically regarding America’s positions on freedom.

First off, I believe that true freedom comes only from God, and is only found through a relationship with Christ. This is freedom that no one can give you, nor take away from you. It can be found only by making a conscious decision to follow Christ.

Heartbeat of AmericaThe worldly freedoms that we are given by our country are beautiful things, yes, and I appreciate them every day. However, they will fail us. Happiness does not come from the ability to make decisions and choose for ourselves what we want to do. We will fail ourselves, and eventually seek out something more. Hopefully, we will seek out Christ instead of some other worldly endeavor.

I do believe that God would want us to live in and create countries that promote worldly freedom, but I do not believe that He would have us glorify it to the extent that we currently do. The glorification of worldly freedom that many Americans live by is dangerous; it leads to American pride and a “worship America” mindset that can blind us from accepting other countries and hinder our relationship with God.

War is murder on a massive scale. There are things that are worth fighting for, but I do not believe that worldly freedoms are always worth the murdering of thousands of people. I refuse to believe that anything other than eternal and spiritual matters are worth any kind of a death toll. And most often, I believe that there are better ways to resolve these matters than violence.

How sad is this?I am often presented with the argument that war is not murder. This is a sad justification that results from attempts to remove the natural guilt behind ending the lives of others. If one has the intention to kill, and proceeds to do so, it is murder, regardless of the reasons behind the decision they’ve made. Opposite arguments betray all forms of logic; the end result is the same whether the situation is war or domestic assault; the end result is death.

I do realize that there are worldly differences between murder on the battlefield and any form of government-penalized murder, but they are only worldly differences, and they are both murder. It seems much more brutal to murder someone’s mommy or daddy at home for hateful reasons than to murder them on the battlefield for some sort of governmental purpose (however pointless that purpose may be). It seems that we should not be guilty of murder for doing what we believe to be right. However, in God’s eyes, all sins are equal; all sins are the same. Murder is sin. And I believe that though we can train ourselves to ignore the guilt we have from murder on the battlefield, we cannot completely remove the God-given sense all of us have that killing others is wrong.

Here's a winner.Venturing back to freedom, I am reminded of the false hope that justice often brings us. Many Americans (often those who believe worldly freedom is worth killing and dying for) believe that justice is the best way to handle all situations, and can sometimes end up worshiping justice in the same way some Americans tend to worship freedom. Justice fails us all in much the same way that freedom fails us; none of us are responsible or righteous enough to not make the mistakes that constitute us as guilty. We are all guilty, and we are all the same. Thus, none of us has the right to condemn others for their sins.

Jesus came to forgive us for this guilt that we have, so that we don’t have to live by justice. I am already guilty of murder; I murder Christ on the cross for every sin I commit. But it is through God’s gift of His son that we are free from the burden of our sins, and free from spiritual justice. God will judge us in the end, but we need only a relationship with His son to be pleasing to God.

It is by Christ that I am free, and I am free in a deeper way than my country can ever provide or take away. This is freedom that cannot be purchased through justice or soldiers’ lives, because it was already given through Christ’s death on the cross.

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15 Responses to True Freedom: Radical and Offensive to Society?

  1. Karrie Porter Brace says:

    Hi Jason!
    Careful, you Calvinist side is showing.  Do a little reading on John Calvin, John Wesley had very different opinions than that.
    I keep going back to these early theologians and how they’ve influenced the history of our respective denominations and the popular American concept of Christianity.  I still think Wesleyan Methodism is still very insightful and can be a reasonable framework for our faith.
    We are free and saved by Grace.  Simple as that.

  2. Jason Carr says:

    Wow…that’s definitely the first time anyone’s ever referred to myself and Calvin in the same sentence.  I agree with Wesley on most (but not quite all) subjects, but Calvin (from the little I’ve read) most often appears to be going in the opposite direction that I would go.  I have an almost passionate disagreement with most of Calvin’s core beliefs.

    For that reason, I’ll probably refrain from reading Calvin.  I agree that we are free and saved by grace.  Period.  Honestly, I’m not sure what I said that would disagree with that statement…

    Can you elaborate on what you mean, Karrie?

  3. Tom Wadsworth says:

    You’ve made statements about freedom and about war.  Let’s take them one at a time.
    1. Freedom.  I couldn’t agree more with your remarks.  I see too many Christians speaking as if the United States of America were some God-ordained, God-blessed, God-chosen nation.  It’s a nice place to live, but there are zero scriptures that deem the USA to be anything special.  It could even be argued that the USA’s worship of freedom has allowed it to turn into a moral cesspool.
    Peter promoted the view that we are “sojourners and exiles” on this planet (1 Peter 2:11).   As Paul said, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).  This earthly place is not my Home.
    Biblically speaking, the USA is no different than any other country or government on the planet.  As Christians, we have the obligation to be obedient to the earthly authorities (Rom. 13:1), no matter where we live … USA, Zimbabwe, Peru, India, Iraq, North Korea, etc.
    As US citizens, we have the unusual opportunity to influence government.  Too many Christians have abused this opportunity by obnoxiously protesting or demanding their way.  This bad behavior has harmed the cause of Christ far more than it has helped it.
    In sum …
    * Too many Christians have become the pepper of the world, not the salt.  (Matt. 5:13)
    * God prefers to see spiritual fruits, not religious nuts.  (Matt. 7:15)
    * If we are to be persecuted, may it be for righteousness’ sake, not stupidity’s sake. (Matt. 5:10)
    * If we are to be criticized, may it be for doing good, not doing bad. (1 Pet. 3:15-16)
    * We should be the light of the world, not the blight of the world. (Matt. 5:14)
    2.  War.   I don’t disagree with you.  Yet, you must remember that my youngest son is an Army Ranger, a Captain, now serving in Baghdad.
    As a parent, I cannot restrain myself from showing him my complete support.  I cannot bear the idea of my son performing his daily duty for his country and doing so without the complete support of his father.
    When he first entered the Army ROTC program in 2001, I shared with him my Christian concerns about war and killing.  I am content to have planted those thoughts in his head.  But since then, I have consciously been quiet about these views.  If he finds himself in a ‘kill or be killed’ situation, I don’t want my views to make him hesitate, even for a potentially deadly second, to defend himself.
    I say all that so that you know: my views may be biased.  But let’s look at some scriptures.
    Several NT scriptures speak of a soldier’s occupation in a favorable light.  I don’t see the occupation condemned anywhere in the Bible.
    An angel came to the centurion Cornelius and said, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” (Acts 10:7) Cornelius (a soldier) even receives a special visit from Peter, who presents the gospel and commands him to be baptized. (Acts 10:43-48)
    Paul uses a soldier’s occupation as a positive illustration (1 Cor. 9:7; 2 Tim. 2:3), saying that the soldier’s “aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”
    Paul speaks of rulers who ‘bear the sword.’  I can only imagine that a ruler’s sword is a soldier or some governmental entity who bears a weapon.  Of this person, Paul says “he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Rom. 13:4)
    Having said all that, the Christian’s prevaling attitude must be one of peace (Rom. 12:18), turning the other cheek (Matt. 5:39), and withstanding abuse even when undeserved, as Jesus did (1 Pet. 2:21-25).
    I fear that some Christians have horribly confused their Christian faith with the political platform of the Republican party.  Here is where your comments about freedom and war merge.
    I attend a church that seems to think that Democrats cannot be Christians.  They seem to have identified the Republican party as the (only) Christian party.  Consequently, they assume that being pro-gun, pro-war, anti-abortion, anti-stem cell research, etc., are all “Christian doctrines.”  Such a distortion of loyalties is sickening.
    They forget … Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting… But my kingdom is not from the world.”  (John 18:36)
    (Having said all that, I fail to see how John Calvin has anything to do with this discussion.  But I know that Calvin wrote volumes and volumes.  So it’s not surprising that some of your comments might have something in common with something Calvin once said.)

  4. Jason Carr says:

    Thanks, Tom.  You’ve done a much better job than I could have in describing what’s wrong with America’s typical approaches to freedom from a Biblical perspective.  I’m going to dive into the scriptures you’ve listed because I have a feeling they’ll be very important for me to know in the future.

    Honestly, I do know that Luke is serving our country, but it was not at the forefront of my mind when I wrote this post, nor when I asked you to comment on it.  I realize now how offensive my post could have been to you, if you had let it be.  Perhaps I would have been more delicate in coming to you had I been thinking about this, but I appreciate (though I’m not surprised to see) the Christ-like approach you’ve taken here.

    I will say that I’ve struggled with a similar (though I’m sure much less difficult) situation between my brother and I, albeit for a much shorter period of time, when he attended the Air Force Academy.  I probably didn’t take nearly as good of an approach as you have, as I made it clear a bit too much that I didn’t support his decision.  Thankfully, I am not my father, however, and he received plenty of support from him.

    You’re correct that the Bible does not seem to condemn war, and for this reason I’ve recently changed my views a bit.  I have an unfortunate tendency to jump to extremes, and this does sometimes get me into theological trouble (as is obvious if you look at this previous post).  I no longer believe that all war is sin, but I still struggle to believe that any of our responses to the conflicts we’ve had in the recent past were blessed by God.  Still, this immediately brings me to judging others, so I’m doing better at avoiding those thoughts in my mind.

    I am not doing so well, though, with my political observations.  I am so passionate in my hatred for the blind associations between the Republican party and “Christianity” that I’m ready to scream.  I’m so tired of going to a Bible study and hearing blind (and completely false) anti-Obama comments and being the only one in the room who doesn’t laugh.  The Nazarene churches I attend are very similar; all political views seem to be Republican for wrong and misinformed reasons.  And, occasionally, I end up going too far to hold my ground because I never get the chance to discuss politics with an open-ended mind.

    I really appreciate what you’ve had to say, Tom, and I hope we can continue these discussions both online and in person.  I hope to see you soon.

  5. Karrie Porter Brace says:

    Hi, Jason:
    It has been said that in polite company people shouldn’t talk about politics or religion due to their polarizing nature.  I take it one step further…people shouldn’t discuss politics or religion if they have not been educated about the theories or facts that comprise our understanding of these topics.
    You are correct in your observation of the problematic conflation of the the American Christian faith and Right Wing politics as its observed among the Republican fringe in this country.  For a very long time people have been under the impression that if they don’t follow the rules as they are re-written by  Republican advisers that people aren’t good Christians or American patriots.  You can go back to the Nixon and Reagan administrations to find the roots of this problem.  Karl Rove made a living off spreading this malicious misinformation and still does.
    The greatest paradox that we face as Americans and Christians concerns the health care debate.  If we are truly Christian and care about others as Christ directs then we should want affordable health care for everyone here.  Do you not consider it morally and ethically wrong for an entire industry to profit from the suffering of others? Or to allow these companies (NOT the Federal Gov’t as many are mislead to believe) to make life and death decisions for those that can’t afford care or would incur too much cost to sufficiently provide care?
    And then there is Bill Maher.  You may certainly disagree with him regarding  his personal opinions on religion but he makes a valid point about health care and old Right Wing Republicans:

    The best thing you can do is know exactly what you’re talking about. Unequivocally.  Know the basic criteria and definitions of those terms and philosophies being bandied about in the popular media and regurgitated by Ditto Heads.  You may politely challenge people’s assumptions if you point out that they may be misunderstanding what it is they claim to believe. Try saying ” I think there is a basic misunderstanding of what this or that is…” don’t make it personal, and try explaining it as a video-cultural phenomenon (What people see on Fox News).  Because of the lack of real understanding of different political philosophies by the larger percentage of the American public, one could argue that Christ himself would be considered a Communist or Socialist by some of these standards.  and these misunderstandings began waaay back after WWII with McCarthyism, the Red Scare and the Cold War.  So much was misunderstood and a lot of damage ensued.

    One political party certainly does not have the corner on religious faith nor the absolute truth in this country. There are huge numbers of Democrats that are faithful Christians.  (And Anthropologists for that matter–another discussion for another time…)  What irks me is that the opinion about disagreeing with the president was considered a lack of faith or patriotism in the previous administration.  In the current administration those on the Right encourage it.  These things are not only blindly misguided, they have roots in racism and anti-intellectualism.
    While I cannot speak for God or Christ, I know that the approach embraced by the Republican Far Right is incongruous with the interpretation of Christ’s teachings.

  6. Jason Carr says:

    Karrie, you’ve added to what I was trying to say in a lot of ways (and probably said a lot of things better than I did).  I do agree with the vast majority of it.

    I do have to say, though, that I disagree just a bit with your statement here:

    “…people shouldn’t discuss politics or religion if they have not been educated about the theories or facts that comprise our understanding of these topics.”

    I recognize how dangerous ignorant discussion can be, but I do believe that political (and religious) discussion is healthy at all levels of education, so long as the intentions of those discussing are to learn more and become more educated on the subject (rather than to force ignorant views).  Condemning ignorant discussion puts a rather large damper on the ability for the ignorant to learn more and broaden their views on the topic; I do believe it is better to at least make an ignorant attempt than to simply be ignorant and not care.  However, obviously there is certainly a difference between shouting ignorance on the rooftops (like O’Reilly?) and humbly trying to gain more knowledge on a subject.  Even still, I believe that attempting to mute ignorant speech is most often even more dangerous than the ignorant speech itself.

    For example, we as a country were stupid enough to elect Bush as our president for 8 years (though of course he was never my choice).  We were better off suffering for our terrible decision and hopefully learning something than being bitter for however long because our stupid decision was not honored.

    My conclusion here is simply that we will learn more if we are not censored and not asked to shut up about views that we are not an expert on.  Eventually our stupid words or actions will hopefully become obvious to us and we will know better in the future.

    I am recognizing a parallel here with how God choses to give us free will, even though we are inherently stupid and will consistently make bad decisions.  Without free will, we would never learn anything, and we would be of little value.  And yet we are all ignorant.  This further pushes me into being against muting ignorant speech.  Your thoughts?

    I do realize that this probably wasn’t the real point of your comments, though, Karrie.  I’m finding it easy to agree with everything else you’ve said, and I do appreciate the points you’ve made. :)

  7. Karrie Porter Brace says:

    Hi, Jason!

    Yeah, I work at a university.  Yeah, we are supposed to be educating people here, even if the Jon Stewart’s Emmy Award winning Daily Show shows us to be less than effective in reaching our goals. ;-)  You may be amused by the following video which we’ve found extremely funny:

    Agreed: Condemning an ignorant argument just to make a point is counter productive.  A gentle, compassionate response, as is suggested in Proverbs 15:1, turns away wrath.  But if you find that you are the lone voice in the Right-eously Wrathful wilderness perhaps your role as a Democratic apologist (a person who defends, in speech or writing, a faith, doctrine, idea, or action) you may compell you to find a fellowship more in tune with your leanings. 

    In all this I have learned that you cannot save someone from his or her self.  The one who keeps a mindless subscription to an undefendable dogma fuels their own fire of ignorant rage once their stance is challenged. 

    Be encouraged, however, in that if the person is earnest in truly seeking God’s wisdom, the heart may turn.

    But have permission to be amused if you wish to laugh at the antics of those who flaunt their ignorance.  We can only assume that God has a sense of humor since he gave us the platypus, squirrels and those who speak or act w/o thinking…

  8. Jason Carr says:

    I’ll have to watch the video when I’m home from work. ;)

    I do find that I am often a “lone voice” in the “right-eously wrathful wilderness” and I would like nothing more than to escape from it.  But, sadly, around here it is difficult to find people who are on the right track both spiritually and politically.  So difficult, in fact, that the percentage of nearby spiritual friends I have that are not passionate right-wing supporters is probably less than 1%.  I think a lot of it is the area I live in.

    Anyway, yes, I very much understand and it’s been very obvious to me that you can’t change these deep-rooted beliefs without a long and dirty battle.  And even if you do change their mind they’re not likely to admit it to you.  Part of my reason for posting was simply to vent because I’m forced not to vent in real life; I will not bring the subject up without it being externally provoked.

    I think my problem is that I am not amused, but rather saddened, by my observations.  I look at the damage that it causes and it takes everything in me not to attack the ignorance with violent words and attempt to shut up all of the stupidity.  But then I’d be no better than the right-wing enthusiasts…

    Good thing for God-given self control…

  9. Tom Wadsworth says:

    I’ll jump in here.  I’m enjoying this conversation.
    When I saw you at Applebee’s last week, I mentioned to Bob Mavis (our pastor at Bethel) that Bethel needs a Jason Carr … someone who is instantly likeable, demonstrably intelligent, and yet sincerely holds to views that are the opposite of the dominant culture at Bethel.
    Right now, Bethel has almost no one to temper their right-wing rabid remarks.  If there were someone like you in their midst, they might be forced to stop pushing a right-wing political agenda in a church atmosphere.
    My point: These folks need people like you (and me).  If you and I shrink back and give up the fight, they are left with zero positive influences to temper their attitudes.
    For some time, I have considered myself “a missionary to Evangelicals.”  Perhaps you should consider adopting a similar identity.
    I think this current hysteria is a cyclical and temporary thing.  When Clinton was elected in 1992, after 12 years of a Republican administration, it was common for Republicans to loudly whine that the country is going down the tubes.  In time, they learned to calm down.  They won’t be silent, nor should they be.
    But in the meantime, they need to be influenced by honest, sincere, kind, intelligent Christians who encourage them to deal with facts (not rumors) and behave themselves as “the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”
    Hang in there.  We need each other.

  10. Jason Carr says:

    Yes we do, Tom.  We need to have another conversation soon; I’ve been running on our last conversation for quite a while now; I could use the boost.

    I’m encouraged by your remark about Bethel; we’re planning on being “free” of our obligations by the end of October.  Amber is pushing for us to go to the Sterling Nazarene church because of the friends that she’s made there, but I’ll be pushing to make sure we try Bethel as well and pray long and hard about it before making a decision.  More than anything, I’d really like to be part of your class.

    From what I’m hearing, it sounds like the Sterling Nazarene church and Bethel seem to be very similar politically.  Both churches appear to have the same problem.  I like your “missionary to Evangelicals” perspective; I suppose that has been my view as well in the church for the past few years.  It does feel good to identify it though (but I have to admit that I do have a bit of guilt in trying to “modify” others’ views).

    Still, it is very clear to me that the Republican financial perspective is the opposite of where it should be, and leads to greed and poverty.  I agree with Karrie when she says that much of the current right-wing agendas are rooted in racism and anti-intellectualism, and it is clear that we need to do something about it, especially in the church.

    Thanks, Tom.  Pray for Amber and I in our decision.  I’ll be praying for you and for Bethel and the Sterling Nazarene church.  Let’s make a difference.

  11. Karrie Porter Brace says:

    Take Heart, Jason!  A fellowship of like minds builds and encourages us but do not think that its a bad thing for others to challenge what we believe.  If we were not challenged and do not occasionally re-evaluate our stance, opinions, and beliefs we grow stagnant and complacent.  Go to your Source, know every verse of Scripture and basis of philosophy for your views.  A well-supported and well-defended thought can be respected in the marketplace of ideas.  If people see you take a stand, hear the wisdom behind your words, and think about what is being said then you will have enlightened people.  This is also a ministry, as Tom said, a “Mission to Evangelicals.”  You may not realize it, but what if this is what God has called you to do, the purpose for your life?

  12. Jason Carr says:

    Hahaha, yeah, it could certainly be one of the many things that God has called me to do.  And yes, it’s always good to be challenged.  But here are a few issues that I have (really in many areas of my life):

    • I never really know what God is or is not calling me to do.  When I think I know, I start to doubt it, and then I end up even more confused.
    • I’ve been told several times before that “if I’m doubting it” that “it’s probably from God.”  I don’t buy that.
    • I sometimes feel guilty for sharing what I believe to be the “truth” with others, because I’ve seen how the truth can make people miserable.  For many people, ignorance really can be bliss.  This is a deep subject and I can provide specific examples, but this probably isn’t the place.  I’m thinking I might start a new blog post about this concept.

    Hmmm…how many new directions can we take this one? ;)

  13. Tom Wadsworth says:

    Scott Whalen and I have discussed the “calling” thing at great length.
    I studied every time the word “calling,” “call,” “called,” etc. was found in the New Testament.  In short, the NT supports the idea that all Christians are called to salvation in Christ (e.g., Rom. 1:6-7) and that Paul was called (in the miraculous incident on road to Damascus) to be an apostle (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1; etc.).  (I’ll send you a bunch of scriptures via email.)
    As a general rule, the NT does not support today’s commonly accepted notion that God calls specific people to a specific ministry. God certainly can do whatever He wants.  But I think we spend entirely too much energy worrying about whether God endorses our vocation.  God endorses all vocations; he simply wants us continue our Christian commitment within that vocation.
    If you feel that you have the gifts and desire to serve in a ministerial capacity, just go for it.  God will support you in that career choice, in the same way he would support you as an accountant, a janitor, or a truck driver.
    As Karrie noted … When you share with others, be sure you stand on a firm foundation of clear scriptural truth.  Arguing over opinions is unfruitful and divisive (Rom. 14:1).

  14. Jason Carr says:

    That’s a very interesting conclusion, Tom; one that honestly I had not previously considered (nor had anyone ever introduced it to me).  I’m very glad you did, though, as it does make a lot of sense.

    I do think the term “calling” is confusing and probably a bit overused.  I’ve never believed that there is necessarily a “purpose” for everything in our lives, or that God necessarily has a meticulous and detailed plan for all of us.  However, I do believe that God can direct us when we ask for direction, and that he knows much better than we do what the right decisions are.

    That’s where I struggle.  I constantly ask God for direction.  I’m never 100% satisfied with my life, because I realize how much closer I can still get to God.  And I’m constantly praying for God to show me how to get closer.  He often does show me, but it always seems to be in a haphazard way that I don’t even recognize until after the fact.  For once, I would love to be directed in an obvious way.  Clearly, though, there must be a reason for his approach.

    So, when I talk about my “calling”, I’m open to the possibility of a life change or a vocational change, but that’s not really the primary focus for me.  Right now in my life, I’d love for God to tell me to “go to this church.”  Because I know that I’ll likely end up second-guessing whatever choice Amber and I finally make, unless somehow I could receive some sort of sure-fire confirmation from God.

    I know that God can and will use me no matter where I’m at, or where I go to church.  My struggle, though, is that I want to do what’s best, and not just what works.  Since I generally don’t have any idea, I’m always running to God for the answers.  I probably always get them, but I rarely recognize it and it’s usually just the way things turn out.  Perhaps I need to stop worrying about it and just have faith that things will turn out to be the best.

    As far as any kind of a ministerial position, I don’t feel that I would be well-suited for any kind of a traditional position (for lots of reasons that I won’t begin to get into).  Nor do I really have a desire to be a minister.

    I do, however, have some kind of a desire to do something radical along the lines of missionary work.  I’ve been searching for some kind of a push for a while, though, and I’m not convinced that it’s not just myself getting restless.  Still, at least I’m open to future opportunities.  That’s where I start second-guessing myself.

    Anyway, that’s where those thoughts come from.  I’m not about to take a huge risk with finances and my family unless I have full confidence that the Lord is somehow pushing me in that direction.

    Thanks again, Tom.  I’ll look into those scriptures you sent me as well.

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