My wife and I had a quick trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this last weekend for a medical convention and while there had several hours of time on Saturday to do some sight-seeing. We walked so many blocks from the hotel where we stayed that we were wore out by nightfall, but saw many good people and places. Visiting Independence Hall and standing in the same room where the signers of Declaration of Independence committed their lives toward the pursuit of freedom that has now influenced the whole world is nothing short of inspirational. Studying the history of our U.S. Constitution in the Constitution Center across from Independence Hall provides a sense of just how great our American history really is. In between those two places is the home of the Liberty Bell inscribed with a scripture from Leviticus 25:10, “…Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof.” As I walked down a sidewalk directly in front of Independence Hall, there were brilliant trees changing their colorful displays while a lone bird hidden in the leaves chirped out some music that sounded like a song of freedom. Just a few blocks away is a Quaker church building into which visitors are welcome and where the unpolished, plain, wood floor from the early 1800’s is still trod upon by those present day adherents to a way of life which greatly influenced many movements toward freedom in our country including ending slavery and recognition of the rights of women. While these several blocks stand to testify to the power of the message of freedom, only several blocks away there were those sitting alongside the streets who certainly appeared to not be very free, but bound by the chains of addiction. Freedom isn’t free, can’t be taken for granted, and must be protected by living responsibly.
In these final weeks before our upcoming elections, I think everyone needs to consider what freedom really means. Many people think that they will have freedom by giving up their freedoms for what they perceive as greater protection and security of greater government control of our lives. There are many who want the government to handle everything in their lives. They are willing to give up their guns and depend upon the government to fully protect them while neglecting the fact that only criminals will have guns then. They want to give up trying to provide for their health and want to turn over their entire healthcare to the ultimate control of the government also while accepting a lower level of possible care available to them. They want to allow greater control of the federal government over our schools and can’t see that it doesn’t help; our graduates are less competitive now than in many decades. If one likes the way our schools are going, then allow the government to control more of our healthcare and we will get a similar system that doesn’t work. Centralized government with tremendous power is what our forefathers fled to avoid and sought independence to leave. The well-intentioned desire by many to make government the god of our lives is doomed for failure.
“The greatest temptation to evil that humanity ever suffers is the temptation to make a “Jerusalem” happen by human means. Human means are absolutely indispensable in the world as it is. This is God’s intention. We are supposed to act, and our actions are to count. But there is a limit on what human arrangements can accomplish. They alone cannot change the heart and spirit of the human being. Because of this, the instrumentalities invoked to make “Jerusalem” happen always wind up eliminating truth, or mercy, or both. World history as well as small-scale decision making demonstrates this. It is seen in the ravages of dictatorial power, on the one hand, and, on the other, in the death by minutiae that a bureaucracy tends to impose. It is well known how hard it is to provide a benign order with human means. For the problem, once again, is in the human heart. Until it fully engages with the rule of God, the good that we feel must be cannot come. It will at a certain point be defeated by the very means implemented to produce it” (The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard, 1997, Harper Collins).