Watching the funeral services for Sen. John McCain has caused me to think about the idea of freedom. The words of Thomas Jefferson have been in my mind all morning. The “God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.” I can’t agree more. The source of our liberty is not the Bill of Rights; it is only the application of a greater truth and reality. God is the source of our liberty but we have to understand that, and implement it into our lives, which is what Jefferson did, I think, in writing the Constitution of the United States.
The yearning for freedom and liberty is strong in every human being and will surface in the hearts of even the most oppressed. I think it is also true that all governments tend to gravitate toward totalitarianism since governing is difficult when people are free to think freely, because governments are then forced to spend time and energy convincing people of issues and would often prefer to coerce people into thinking and doing things their way. Governments use fear to keep people from disagreeing with their policies. I recall one evening in Korea in the 1970s when I was walking with a Korean friend down a back alley on my way home in Korea, where we lived. I had seen the President of Korea on television that day and he looked a little pale, I thought, so I mentioned that to my friend. He did not respond. I could tell that he was afraid someone in one of the houses (since the houses bumped up against the ally with a concrete wall between it and the alley) heard me say that and we would be in serious trouble. I caught on that in the context of a dictatorship a person cannot comment on the President that in any way would be construed as negative.
Obviously, reading this today makes that event seem implausible since most of the news we hear somehow reflects negatively on the President of the US. Living abroad most of my adult life I recall hearing someone comment that Americans are the best at bashing and demeaning their country. I think that we have passed that stage somewhat and now we focus on individual leaders. I wonder if our verbal abuse of leaders is appropriate and necessary for expressing our freedom of speech and thought. I agree that sometimes the bad behavior of leaders deserves a comment that would express our disapproval of the way they represent us. But even that should be civil.
I have drifted somewhat from my theme, which is that it is God who gave us liberty and governments must recognize that. But we as citizens must use our freedom responsibly in a way that pleases God. It is to God that we must give an account of our behavior and that would make governing us much easier I would think. We have too many life-restricting laws because of the bad behavior of a few. Perhaps we should add on to Jefferson’s words. The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time he gave us good sense. Perhaps we should use it now and then!