There she was. The condescending woman smiled calmly into the camera and explained to us why she refused to wear a mask. First of all, she was perfectly healthy, and in any case she trusted God to protect her from Covid-19. Her logic was that she didn’t care if you and I wear a mask because that’s our business – but in the same way, we shouldn’t care if she doesn’t wear one because that’s her business.
The problem is that she seems to have missed the primary purpose of the mask which is to prevent people like her from spreading it. See, the virus can be shared even if people are asymptomatic, or to say it without using a big word, she can spread the virus without even feeling sick or knowing she has it. Her insistence on remaining unmasked can literally kill many people.
The most interesting anti-maskers are those who say some version of, “Our body, our choice” (ironically these are conservatives). Again, they miss the point. I saw three separate people on television who said without irony, “I might get the virus but that’s the great thing about being an American, I’m free to do what I want”.
Apparently the freedom to breathe unfiltered air is more important than life.
What is freedom?
Does freedom mean being able to do whatever we want, all the time, no matter how irresponsible? Obviously not, that’s more like free-dumb. Even a rudimentary understanding of freedom acknowledges that we can’t all have our way all the time without infringing on somebody else’s freedom.
We live in all sorts of communities and the only way to survive together is to negotiate our rights judiciously. Freedom is the ability to say, I’m okay to do whatever is best.
It’s Canada Day today. The older I get, the more comfortable I am with how our country has evolved the concepts of freedom and democracy. Right-wingers might call us socialists but the majority of Canadians understand that freedom carries with it a responsibility to care for one another.
As far as faith is concerned, the biblical writers sum it up nicely for Jesus-formed people:
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” – Galatians 5:13-15
Watch the ‘my freedom’ people closely – they are usually selfish or angry with their insistence on freedom. Ironically, they are slaves to freedom – their own freedom, that is.
“’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything—but I will not be mastered by anything.” – 1 Corinthians 6:12
The above verse is in the context of sexual morality but the principle remains – it’s about the lies we tell ourselves in the name of freedom. We can justify a wide range of bad behaviour by holding up freedom as the ultimate goal. Freedom as an idol.
I still remember the Vietnam War which was fought to preserve the freedom of South Vietnam and prevent communism from toppling the other countries in south east Asia and taking their freedom. Events played out pretty much the opposite of what westerners said they would and the region actually became a safer place after the soldiers left. How many men, women, and children died for those false assumptions about freedom?
“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” – 1 Peter 2:16
We see it all the time in everyday life and human interactions. The way we spend our money, our time, how we treat others, etc. is justified as choice and freedom but is usually more in the category of bondage. For instance, the implications of purity culture can be just as dangerous as unrestrained sexuality can be. Freedom has to do with the inner freedom we experience when we are living as God intended.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17
True freedom begins with a comfort and a rightness with our creator that in turn puts everything into proper perspective. Freedom is experiencing love, acceptance, hope, to the point that our outside circumstances are secondary. Freedom is the whisper in our souls that says, “It is well.”
Off the top of my head here is a partial list of some freedoms and bondages (feel free to add more):
freedom of contentedness rather than the bondage of aggression
freedom of telling truth rather than the bondage of maintaining lies
freedom to be wrong rather than the bondage of needing to be right
freedom to be happy for others rather than the bondage of jealousy
freedom to forgive others rather than the bondage of bitterness
freedom to be yourself rather than the bondage of insecurity
freedom of mystery rather than bondage of certainty
freedom of understanding rather than the bondage of ignorance
freedom of calmness rather than the bondage of rancour
freedom of order rather than the bondage of confusion
freedom of generosity rather than the bondage of greed
freedom of peace rather than the bondage of violence
freedom of a living faith rather than the bondage of empty religion
freedom of grace rather than in the bondage of legalism
freedom of love rather than the bondage of hate
We are free when we don’t have to insist on having our way. Freedom is spiritual and emotional serenity within our circumstances. Freedom is a wellness that is rooted so deeply inside that we become a fountain of grace rather than a wall of strife.
“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” – Psalm 119:45