Is Fighting for Personal Freedom a Christian Thing to Do?

“We moved from the concept of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ and instead embraced the idea of ‘do unto others before they do unto you.’” – Dale Sanger

It’s ironic that I’m writing this on Remembrance Day, a day where we remember what freedoms soldiers are fighting for. It’s also funny that I’m writing this at a time when I’m seriously questioning what Christians are truly fighting for, especially now that we live in a world where the fight against a virus happens by “staying home” and staying away from friends, family, and other people outside the household.

We live in a world full of options. It seems freeing to an extent, but this kind of freedom can be overwhelming. We live in a digital landscape where we have so many choices in job occupations, hobbies, communication, and what to believe. We hold onto our identities loosely because thanks to digital convenience, we can be whatever we want. Today, I could sell a shirt with text from a meme on Redbubble. Tomorrow, I could go viral on Tik Tok and become a movie star. We could use videos to express a message one day and a blog post the next day. We can listen to Joe Rogan one day, watch MSN the next day, and form our own opinions on current events afterwards. I’m starting to wonder if computers are part of the problem.

Even outside of the digital freedom space, we have more freedom than we can imagine when it comes to society and it’s need for self-actualization.

At a buffet, we can eat as much as we want without staff warning us that we reached our quotas of food to eat or that we need to leave some for future customers who haven’t eaten yet. But some people restrain themselves because they don’t want to add too many calories to their bodies by committing to a diet or they’re afraid of vomiting like I am.

The typical school of thought here is that freedom is the right to choose how to live. That’s only partially correct. As people in democratic societies, we always subconsciously choose freedom by default. But real freedom comes from committing to very few critical life choices that keep us free. It fascinates me that this is many times done with a selfish motivation.

Greater freedom also comes from putting aside our personal freedom for the good of another person or for society itself. How often do we actually do that? In fact, sometimes I have to ask myself how often I’m willing to do that because even early this week I truly missed the mark (that’s another story for another post).

Paul puts forth this challenge in 1 Corinthians 10:23 to 33. We need to be more concerned with God’s glory and the well-being of our society in general. The context of this biblical passage may even challenge your values and ideology just like the Corinthians were challenged as to what their own rights and freedoms were. America is all about independence, freedom from government, and exceptionalism which makes living real Christianity even more confusing. All this stuff to me is non-essential to my faith and it almost makes me weep when discovering this cognitive dissonance is inflicting Canadians who lean toward the alt-right. To be self-less and look out for others for God’s glory in technicality is not the American way. But I digress because of my own struggle with understanding today’s political climate.

More and more Christians are still “fighting for freedom” by posting about masks/no masks, plan-demic hoaxs, government control, 1984, Q-Anon, Democrat weapon, bioweapon, deep state theories and frankly, it’s pissing me off. If you’re involved in these discussion daily, perhaps we should be figuring out what’s going down in our own backyards. We also need to quit playing “Karen-expert” even if some guru justifies your stance (don’t be afraid to be wrong. We’ve all fallen for falsehoods before).

“Yeah, but Aaron, Jesus came to set us free and now the ‘new Romans’ are trying to take away our rights, our economy, our overall health, and small businesses.” In other words, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

You’re kidding, right? Let’s just be honest, we’re actually quite lucky when it comes to our current situation with Covid. We’re free to post on social media without police coming to arrest us (obviously threats are an exception). We don’t have governments wiretapping or watching us with cameras in our homes (plus we can put our phones on airplane mode to increase privacy). We can still buy food and order Christmas gifts online (and we can still celebrate the holidays with our households). We can still go outside and walk while keeping our distance from others (in Winnipeg at least). We can Zoom, Messenger chat, or do Google Hangouts (there are more secure options). And best of all, we’re not under martial law (not yet). We can exercise at home with special exercise routine apps on Google Play. There are apps for meditation. There are a lot of options out there that can still keep us sane. We have to remember that soldiers actually fought so that lockdowns will not be worse than this. We’re going to be okay. As a human race, we’ve recovered from worse when we really put history into perspective.

I’m starting to wonder if these Christians who make these “freedom claims” actually care about and study biblical commands like the ones found in Romans 13. I’m starting to wonder if Christians today really want to be servants instead of leaders. I even wonder if Christians will consider dropping the “Reaganistic” attitude and will ever take our local government seriously (as inept as the Progressive Conservatives in Manitoba actually are). While these Christians even in some ways mean well, having the mindset of conspiracy theorists actually harms the spiritual, mental, emotion, and in the case of Covid, even physical health of fellow believers. It’s sad.

I remember when Christianity was (in a way) about dying to our desire for drugs, sex and rock and roll. Now we live in a time where we can actually define what it means to die to ourselves. Perhaps our subjective definition of this is self-centred and revolves around rights based living. But I get it. If it was up to my own mindset towards masks, social distancing, attending gatherings with my in-laws, I would rather not follow the rules. But the truth is that if I went along with my desire not to follow the rules, I would not only be broke from fines, but I would be making others uncomfortable and raise questions of conscience. While I don’t need that kind of drama, I also care about what happens to my community. Pretty sure God would not be pleased with me if I’m the only healthy one standing. That is why I wear a mask and social distance. I’m laying my own personal freedoms down for the good of my city. That is how you die to yourself in this Covid season.

If you call yourselves children of God, you know that Christianity is Christ-centred and puts others first. The real war that we should be fighting is to make this mindset crystal clear. In fact, screw your feelings about QAnon, a stolen election, CNN Fox and fake news, media hoaxes etc. We should be reading the bible before any article online first thing in the morning. When it comes to the Christian faith, Paul doesn’t allow the Corinthians to make any non-essential issue a matter of Christian concern. If you’re still stuck on all the conspiracies, you’ve completely missed the point.

Living faithfully for God’s glory starts with staying home and following the regulations even though they don’t make sense. The apostle Paul challenges us not to look at this Covid lockdown through the lens of permissibility but through the lens of love instead. While we do have freedom in matters of non-essentials, why should we be concerned about our “freedoms” when God already set us free to choose life or death in the first place? Is God really concerned about freedoms we already have or don’t necessarily need? Or is He more concerned about what we do with our freedom in commitment?

I don’t have a clear cut answer, but I do know this:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. – 1 Cor 10:31 – 33

It’s simple but some fundamentalists and right leaning Christians make it difficult and confusing. Keep it simple. Live life for God’s glory and others and if living out your own subjective freedom offends others, maybe you should stop it temporarily until you’re away from them especially if it’s not for God’s glory.

We always have the right to choose and always choose what we want to do naturally. But our freedoms don’t guarantee we can do whatever we want. Every action has some form of consequence and we constantly have to answer to at least one person in our lives. But they are not dictated by consciences of other Christians.

We live in an entitled culture of blessing and false exceptionalism that tells us to live for ourselves to the fullest. A big basic part of Christianity we need to get back to is being servants of Christ rather than fighting for our freedoms. I even have to ask myself how I’m serving my own neighbourhood and community because staying home and keeping them healthy even for me is not enough.

Personal freedom is far from the greatest concern of the Christian life. If Christians are willing to see Covid defeated, we need to put aside our personal freedoms by washing our hands, wearing masks, social distancing, and restricting our gatherings with other people. If we don’t even bother to consider the first sentence in this paragraph while getting caught up in constant falsehoods and non-essential stuff to give a “special word that rhymes with firetruck” about, we’ve already lost the war on Covid. And that’s something I don’t want to remember every single November 11th.