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July 16, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

Does the Christian faith sacrifice freedom?

Metaphors for Understanding Christian Faith:
Following a faith or specifically the Christian faith isn’t “controlling.” Its more analogous to one of the following in which you set your sites on a goal and you decide how you will live in order to best achieve that goal:

Following a fitness regimen to reach the Olympics or your top fitness
Respecting people in relationships by following the Golden Rule (ie general rule of honesty)
Following your fathers recipe for backyard grilling
Forgoing high fructose corn syrup, Tab, and collard greens
Not watching American Idol or Jersey Shore to build your latest web application or to learn about passion
Following the coaches guidance to achieve higher performance in life or sports

Following a map, following a recipe, setting out to achieve the objective of making the world better or achieving something better is hardly an issue of control. If it appears to be, its likely a conflation of tradition and institutional practice vs. fundamental Christian principles.

Moral Terms: Christian Faith & Freedom.
And it is the case that 90% of Christian principles are about respecting others. (i.e. giving, serving, helping, loving, comforting, and not letting your ego get out of check). Moreover, its about the core of what it means to be human. Character, responsibility, and respect are smart decisions which build community and relationship. They are the lifeblood and DNA of what it means to be human–and exist in human communities be they families, neighborhoods, or nations.

Practical Terms: Christianity and Freedom
Short vs. long term thinking (or act vs. rule utilitarianism if you prefer more philosophically grounded). Taking the high road now can save people from other worse forms of control (like addictions). The analogy to stopping at red lights to avoid the worse consequence of being in a wreck or being killed. That we establish laws to ensure that we have long term freedom is just rational thinking.

In fact, Galatians 5 answers this question as well, and it re-frames how the Christian life has been characterized by those who would criticize it from the outside:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Practical Terms: Christianity and Freedom (Part II)
Living a Christian lifestyle often means living longer and with fewer health related problems which curtail your freedom. For instance:

Results like these “tell me that on average most of us are doing things wrong,” says Thomas Perls, a geriatrician at Boston University Medical Center who is studying 1,200 present and past centenarians in New England. He has found that people who make it to 100 tend to have staved off serious disability until well into their 90s, either by avoiding disease or by limiting its consequences. “With healthy behaviors, you are adding years to your life, and you compress the time with which you experience disability,” Perls says. “Instead of the older you get, the sicker you get; it is the older you get, the healthier you’ve been.” Olshansky adds, “The only control we have over the duration of our life is to shorten it, and we do that all the time.”

Question Behind the Question.
Finally, the question itself asks the wrong question. I shouldn’t lie about my investments, neglect my children, cheat on my wife, betray my family and friends, or leave the world worse off than when I got here. It may require some hard decisions and dedication on my part, but character, responsibility, and ultimately love compel me to make those decisions.

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