True freedom

Which is more likely to secure freedom for a society – a multitude of laws or a minimum? In my previous post I suggested mandating marriage for a couple who create a child, something which undoubtedly smacks of government overreach to many. But does a permissiveness regarding pre- and extramarital sex, homosexual sex, and pornography protect and enhance freedom, or threaten it?

unshackledWhat is freedom? We may say it’s the ability to do what we want when we want, but of course we would allow that moral considerations limit that ability in various ways. None of us would assert a freedom to murder or steal. So, we say it’s the ability to do what we want as long as we don’t stomp on anyone else’s rights. Just what those rights are, I think, is the bigger question, and they really cannot be determined apart from our Creator. The problems we are having in our relationships, in raising healthy, happy kids, and securing for ourselves and our children a safe environment in which to live and grow, can be directly attributed to our stubborn secularism.

Because we fail to acknowledge God and his laws in our governing, we codify a very tenuous morality, one without any real foundation that shifts and morphs with the changing times. And we determine rights based on our own sensibilities rather than what the true Giver of rights has ordained, for our good. So, whereas God designed sex to be enjoyed within the bonds of marriage between one man and one woman, and limited it to that, we have said that individuals have the right to engage in it pretty much whenever and with whomever we want. We have also said that we have the right to watch others engaging in it, something God most definitely abhors. It should not surprise us that ignoring our true Governor and making our own rules has wrought so much pain, disappointment, and death.

I maintain that true freedom is the ability to enjoy all that God has designed us for, and for us. For instance, he gave us life to be lived until he takes it away. Laws against murder and drunk driving protect true freedom. Laws against abortion used to. And a justice system in line with God’s Word that ensured a speedy trial and a just but speedy punishment would also protect true freedom.

God’s design for sex is as a holy expression of commitment and covenant, a source of shared pleasure between a man and woman who have so committed themselves to each other, and a means of creating children to be born within a stable family. Freedom to enjoy it this way has been severely compromised by our so-called rights to no-guilt sex and no-fault divorce. I’m sure a majority of young people enter marriage with a string of sexual relationships behind them. They can’t really give themselves totally to their spouse when they’ve already given so much of themselves to multiple others. Those experiences as well as the commercialization of sex, its depiction in the entertainment media as a self-serving expression of liberation and autonomy rather than commitment, and the proliferation and acceptance of pornography make God’s ideal in marriage nearly impossible to enjoy. And divorce as a reasonable option when conflicts and disappointments come means it will be at least considered at some point by virtually ever married person in America.

My point is that more “rights” do not equate with more freedom. In fact, they often jeopardize it. True freedom is gained not by reducing laws but by having enough and the right kinds of laws to protect our ability to live the full and satisfying life God designed us for. We tend to think we’re more free when we have fewer laws to restrict us. But a society is in danger of the opposite when it is marked by a complacency about what God identifies as sin.

There is a well-known observation commonly attributed to the 18th-century Scottish historian Alexander Tytler that bears careful consideration: “The world’s great civilizations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back again into bondage.”

If this is true, it appears to me America is perilously close to losing the freedom we are so proud of, and which we have been duped into thinking is enhanced by fewer restrictions. But note what will set us back on the course to true freedom.