Our Fourth of July

Yesterday, the 4th of July 2012, was memorable in a variety of ways. Years ago my sweet sister, Saint Crystal, gave me a handmade smoker, the Little Drum Roaster (LDR). It was used yesterday for the first time and I hasten to add most humbly with great success. The pork of that three and a half pound Boston Butt fell right off the bone. We also managed to keep the boys up till 9:20 without too many meltdowns for a spectacular display of fireworks at Keswick Park here in Chamblee. All of us enjoyed them greatly but Dow especially.

At lunch we had a challenging but rewarding conversation about the difference in bondage and freedom. With three of our children under four it is necessary to find clever ways in and out of deep thinking particularly when the two words are you trying to explain have no immediate meaning in and of themselves like say “no” and “mine.” I said to Dow, who is almost four, you know how Captain Hook sometimes tries to capture Jake and Izzy and Cubby (of Disney’s “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” fame if you are not raising kids at the moment)? Well Captain Hook is trying to keep them from doing the things they want to do (as in pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness).  “He wants to rob them of freedom and place them in bondage,” I said. Dow was beginning to understand. Kristen reminded him of how Captain Hook had tied up Peter Pan. That launched Dow into lots of thoughts and not necessarily on topic. Tinker Bell got in there somehow. But he finally understood bondage (or at least captivity) and freedom.

Anyway, I went on to explain that many years ago a King and another country wanted to rob us in America of our freedom (self-determination). Because of that, men and women of bravery and valor had to fight, even die, to insure our freedoms survived. And ever since, I told Dow, others like your grandfathers have had to defend the same freedoms to make sure no Captain Hook or King could take them away.

I would say the explanation went as well as one could with children that age. But the conversation did not include my deepest thoughts or growing lament. Early in the morning I had made my Facebook status “Grateful for the freedoms we still enjoy!” “Still” is the operative word. We are increasingly celebrating less and less liberty apparent to some and seemingly hidden from many.

There is the inane – no more Big Gulps in New York. Can’t help but mention the irony of the all-knowing mayor simultaneously wanting to decriminalize pot. Perhaps he’s forgotten that the substance usually creates what people in the seventies and eighties called the munchies which inevitably lead to the consumption of many pizzas and unending Big Gulps. Just yesterday he honored a hot dog eating contest with his presence and a speech. Is there no end to the inconsistency? Add to the inane limits on salt, insistence on forever light bulbs that have their own safety issues and disposal costs, and the subsidized solar energy which manages to produce a job for every million or two expended.

Then there is the serious – health insurance or pay the piper. Then there is the grave. The greater risk of the serious is to religious liberty. It’s grave. The Roman Catholic Church should not have to provide contraception or abortion counseling to any employees. It violates their theological conscience. And believers of all stripes should be equally concerned. If I am searching for a youth pastor must I consider an atheist or a Muslim as if the rights of the potential employee exceed the rights of the church to protect its beliefs and morals? By fiat the free exercise of religion is under attack by the government meant to protect and preserve it.

And the concept of universal health (which exists already but in a very inefficient form) is freedom robbing across the board. If all have to pay, depravity will dictate that you demand an interest in what I eat or don’t eat, drink or don’t drink, exercise or don’t exercise. And believe me I will have an equal if not more fervent interest in all of that for you. We won’t have one master but 300 million.

And while it may be obvious I am no progressive, this is not ideological.  The size of government alone can be freedom stifling if not liberty robbing. My gut tells me that there has been no sustained period of “no growth” even if there have been some periods of cuts to the rate of growth in my lifetime or even the last hundred years (whichever comes first).  Measured by experience, liberal and conservative regimes are responsible for the growth of government even if only one proactively commends it.

It seems to me at its core America is a continuation of the Magna Carta, an experiment of free individuals with limited government and no divine right of Kings. We are far from there. To be sure, like humans in every age, we have abused our freedom. Whitewashing or selective memory will not erase the truth. But our ever expanding government has not corrected nor even curtailed such abuse. So it does not restrain any better whether small or large. Where the experiment has failed is in our inability to resist tyranny. In the end we are like the Israelites of old, we insist on a king whether in a single man or an oppressive government.

There is hope for renewal. It is in a Gospel spirituality and morality necessary to the exercise of our constitutional republic.  When these are thriving, we demand governance only with the consent of the governed. Without them, we abdicate and passively grant our consent to a would-be enemy of freedom which always stands at the door and is always on the prowl. There is hope. But is there time? I pray my grandchildren, when they come of age, will celebrate more freedom than the paltry amount by comparison to that which we had at our birth that we celebrated last night.

While staunchly opposed to nationalism and everything that elevates the nation above the Kingdom, I energetically celebrate the experiment we have attempted and the lives given to sustain it. It grieves me that the sun now sets upon founding principles for which many have died. May it rise again in our day!

2 Responses to “Our Fourth of July”

  • Happy Kelley Says:

    Really appreciate your thoughts on the 4th. What an outstanding model for explaining freedom and bondage to 4’s and under. I will remember that and pass it on. Challenging remarks for the over 4 to think about and grateful to be connected to you and Grace Community and Gleanings. Blessings

  • JohnD Says:

    The Richardsons rejoice that God has made you/us family!

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