Monday’s Musings: Liberty

While musing about how I’d illustrate this post, I found this image of the famous painting “The Spirit of ’76.” I like it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my connection with the artist, Archibald Willard. As you can see from the linked article, he and I were born and raised in the same town.

I guess, since I’m just musing today, it’s okay to go off on a tangent like this. But enough of that. Let’s get down to business.

A few years ago, I read John Adams by David McCullough. If you haven’t had the pleasure, I recommend it highly. McCullough does a wonderful job of breathing life into the dusty historical facts and making that era and the characters who peopled it tangible and real. The book gave me a deeper appreciation for this country’s founding fathers and the principles upon which they built this “grand experiment” of a nation. The whole thing is far more remarkable than most people realize today.

I started watching the TV miniseries based on the book, but I didn’t care for it. As usual, the book was better. But I didn’t get very far into the series, and perhaps I didn’t give it a chance.

When I was quite young—don’t remember how old, exactly—it occurred to me that if I had lived in 1776, I would likely have been a Tory–or at least had Tory sympathies.

Blasphemy, I know.

The older I get and the more I learn about that era, the more complicated the situation seems. From the safe distance of centuries, it’s easy to cheer for those brave patriots. To see that act of rebellion as the right thing to do. But it wasn’t so simple at the time. It required prayerful, agonizing decisions, knowing that whichever side you chose, there would be a high price to pay. As I read McCullough’s book, the old Peter, Paul & Mary song continually played through my mind: Wasn’t that a time, wasn’t that a time? A time to try the souls of men. Wasn’t that a terrible time.

This Wednesday, we’ll celebrate the American colonies’ bold declaration of their independence from Mother England. It was not a unanimous decision, even then. Now, 236 years later, we face some tough choices ourselves. Who knows but what our descendants will look back at the second decade of the 21st century and shake their heads. Wasn’t that a time!

Don’t get me wrong; I’m thankful to live in America and I value the freedoms we enjoy here. What’s more, there’s no “but” to follow that statement. I’m thankful to live in this place, and at this time. I believe our Constitution is the most amazing, insightful, far-sighted, and practical-minded document ever written by man (I added the “written by man” disclaimer because I don’t put it on a par with the Bible), and it pains me to see the liberties we take with it these days.

Note my use of “liberty” in that last sentence. Liberty can be destructive. Whether or not we believe it, this truth is self-evident: we were endowed by our Creator with the freedom to choose our course, and we don’t always choose wisely.

This is complicated enough in the political realm, but I don’t like to think about politics. I’d rather look at the big picture and focus on the things that really matter. When speaking of spiritual and eternal things, it’s a different story. The choices are quite simple there, but to our mortal minds, spiritual truth can seem counter-intuitive.

We think of independence and freedom as synonymous. But the fact is, there’s no greater freedom than to be wholly dependent on Christ.

I could expound on this for pages and pages, but I won’t. For now, I’ll just let you think about it.

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