What Is True 'Freedom?'

What is "freedom?" 

We love to throw the word around, but what does it actually mean in its purest, most unadulterated form?

It's the ability to make choices without "absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint."

It's the ability to live without being controlled by someone — or something.

But freedom goes far beyond that. It's the opportunity to wake up each day and make decisions about one's own destiny. 

From the small decisions to the large, freedom offers us the chance to pave our own way.

In America, freedom is most typically associated with rights. The right to pursue happiness, the right to enjoy liberty. And these ideals are immeasurably important.

In America we can:

- Voice our political perspectives

- Worship God in the way we see fit

- Speak our minds

- Seek to fulfill our dreams, whatever they might be

I'm eternally grateful for these freedoms, among many others, and I too often forget to thank God for allowing me to live in a nation that so profoundly affords me the opportunity to make choices, both big and small.

There are too many places in the world where these rights don't exist — where people cannot express their beliefs and are harassed, beaten and killed for doing so. 

That is tragic and horrific. 

I praise God for America and the blessings given to us on a daily basis — rights too many of us forget to be thankful for. Our normal ability to decide for ourselves is an unattainable fairy tale for so many across the globe.

So, back to that question: what is freedom? As I've stated, it has much to do with rights (at least in the modern context), though my focus here, again, is "true freedom," the purest form. 

The Bible speaks deeply and profoundly on this topic.

2 Corinthians 3:17 tells us, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." And John 8:36 reads, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." 

It doesn't end there, either. The Scriptures are filled with explanations of what freedom really means. 

Galatians 5:1 adds, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

It's clear that God created us for freedom, but that freedom can only be attained in its truest and purest form through Jesus. That might seem confusing; that might appear odd to someone outside the Christian faith.

But it's truth. Freedom isn't free. We were bought at a price. 

And as we celebrate Independence Day today and reflect on our nation's history and on the liberty we all enjoy, we must also remember that true freedom runs much deeper — and it can be attained not by tradition or ritual, but by simple belief: an understanding that Jesus, who was sinless, is God's son who came to Earth, died for our sins and offered redemption. 

Why not accept this free gift and let it transform you? So many of us are hurting, wondering what life really means, looking for something deeper. You'll find that meaning — that purpose — in Jesus.

Think deeper. Pray harder. Be thankful. Find out what it means to accept Jesus here.

Elena Kagan — Worryingly Wobbly On the First Amendment

The first amendment to the United States Constitution is so profoundly important that it permeates nearly every sector of our society. Clearly, America’s forefathers deemed the contents of this primary amendment so essential that it was perfectly positioned to precede the other amendments. For this reason, among many others, any American worthy of the name should have reservations, if not concerns, regarding Elena Kagan’s anti-first amendment worldview. Allow us to first explore the amendment in its entirety:

FirstAmendment

Here, our forefathers very clearly tackle a number of issues – religion, government restraint, the freedom to speak openly, the allowance of a free press, peaceful assembly and the right to formal complaints against perceived government abuses. And this is only the short list. The amount of socio-political power possessed in the amendment’s 45 perfectly assembled words is mind-boggling. How so many on the left can continue to mis-characterize, utilize proof texts and unabashedly slaughter the amendment’s original intent is beyond me. While this continued misunderstanding is horrifying, of greater concern is the notion that Americans will potentially have another unfit Justice overseeing first amendment rights. Jacob Sullum has more on the potential danger to individual rights Kagan’s nomination may pose:

Together with some of [Kagan’s] academic writings, her arguments in [specific] cases provide grounds to worry that she will be even less inclined than Stevens, who has a mixed First Amendment record, to support freedom of speech.

Sullum covered Kagan’s penchant for censorship in detail, so I won’t recount his argument here. What I will do is tell you why the left, and Kagan, have the first amendment radically wrong (liberals: listen up):

Our forefathers (most of them, anyway) believed in the Almighty, and referenced Him in the Declaration of Independence. The “establishment clause” in the Bill of Rights is intended to prevent the American government from establishing a church, as was the case not only in England, but in such states as Massachusetts and Connecticut, which both had established churches (Congregational) and retained them in some form for decades afterward – Connecticut until 1818 and Massachusetts until 1833.

congregational church

That said, nowhere does it say that religion cannot be present in public venues. The left’s continued assault on free speech and religious practice is alarming, especially considering that the vast majority of Americans do, indeed, believe in a higher power. Congress may not create a law establishing a particular sect or religion, yet the left takes that to mean that a cross cannot be placed on public property and the Ten Commandments must be removed from every public venue. It’s clear that there’s a major disconnect between original intent and current interpretation. In fact, many times, liberals, themselves, violate the spirit of the first amendment by demanding that various cohorts not freely practice.

In terms of the press, I believe it is essential that we allow journalists and networks the right to decide how they want to distribute information. Nowhere in the first amendment would support for the Fairness Doctrine be found, as this regulatory shenanigan does little to provide actual “fairness” in reporting. In fact, this is a backdoor method Democrats incessantly salivate over, as they dream about using it to squash conservative successes in broadcast markets. Once again, it flies in the face of the individual rights guaranteed by the first amendment.

While the aforementioned examples are not necessarily tied to Kagan, a general pattern based on her past statements, papers and articles showcases an individual who appears bent on stopping many of the rights guaranteed by our Founders. Unfortunately for Kagan and her ideological bedfellows, the offensive quality of a statement, image or media outlet has nothing to do with its constitutionality. The people are protected, whether she likes it or not.

O Ye of Little Faith: The Secular American Media and Religion

The media have an inadequate understanding of religion. This simple fact is corroborated frequently, as mainstream outlets attempt to illustrate stories, explain religious themes and delve deep into faith-based systems.  Unfortunately, most outlets miss the mark entirely, as journalists do not have proper understanding of the constructs through which they are attempting to report.  As a result, the American public suffers a lack of pointed and well-presented information on a subject that stands at the forefront of important global and domestic issues. Case in point, Christiane Amanpour’s 2007 CNN mini-series entitled, “God’s Warriors.”  The three-part series delved into the world’s three largest religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam.  As is typical of the secular media, an enhanced level of relativism led the Iranian-bred Amanpour (born in London to a Persian family) to equate “extremism” within and among adherents to the three religions. 

While each belief system has had moral failures, equating the deaths as a result of radical Islamic fascism to those of contemporary Christianity and Judaism is absurd.  Furthermore, as is the case when journalists attempt to cover religion, Amanpour left out essential details that would have provided a more fair-minded picture.

In terms of her opaque coverage of Christianity, MercatorNew.com wrote the following,

“But she missed the obvious. [Christians] were participating in America’s legal and political system exactly as it was intended by the Founders, as a representative republic, with citizen involvement.  She missed the pre-Jerry Falwell political civil rights activism of Dr. Martin Luther King and other Christians, and she totally missed Catholic social justice and the involvement of the roughly 70 million strong Catholic community in the US in the pro-life movement. She did highlight the powerful impact of Roe v. Wade on galvanizing Christians. She just failed to mention the Catholic involvement, which is considerable.”

In its usual ideologically-balanced form, The New York Times wrote the following endorsement: “This three-part series…is a fine primer on the emergence of strains of Judaism, Islam and Christianity that want to fuse politics and religion, and have shown a willingness to blow things up and kill people to do it.”

Again, an unhealthy and unbalanced level of moral equivalence – though I will give the Times credit for writing: “the issues on these Christian warriors’ minds seem positively quaint next to the agendas of the people in Parts 1 and 2.”  Still, the inability to truly distinguish, on the whole, is a detriment to true understanding.  Unfortunately, this sort of coverage is common.

The modern secular newsroom lacks the ideological know-how to truly understand religion.  Perhaps Terry Mattinglybest exlplained the media’s “diversity problem”. According to Mattingly, “While there’s been heavy gender and racial diversity … there’s a lack of cultural diversity in journalism…”  It is this lack of diversity that leads to major misconceptions and the media’s inability to adequately tell stories that are rooted, themselves, in religious themes.

The lack of diversity may lie in the journalists themselves, as personal faith plays a role in the ability to understand and thus illustrate religious themes.  Just how religious are journalists?  According to USA Today, “the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported in 2007 that 8% of journalists surveyed at national media outlets said they attended church or synagogue weekly.”  Additionally, 29% reported never attending church services, with an additional 39% stating that they go a few times each year.  In sum: Not very religious – especially when compared to America as a whole.

Pew found that 39% of the public claims that they attend church services weekly.  Additionally, past Gallup pollshave shown as many as eight in ten Americans claim allegiance to Christianity.  Clearly, these numbers show the need for proper journalistic understanding and presentation, especially when covering stories rooted in Christian themes.

Not enough journalists are regular church goers. Faith is not an attribute one can physically observe, thus “affirmative action” – a promotional methodology that is highly controversial to begin with – is an impossibility (also, employment laws generally forbid interview questions of faith).  While general ignorance and inexperience with religious themes is likely a culprit amongst journalists, and consequently mainstream media outlets, complacency is also an impediment.

In a 2003 Los Angeles Times piece, David Shaw wrote the following:  “Absent…scandal — or the death of a pope and the election of his successor — the news media often seem indifferent to, ignorant of and, at times, downright hostile toward religion.”  Shaw is completely correct in his assertion.  If not indifferent altogether, the media approach religion so slothfully that it appears as though the effort to misunderstand is undertaken with a barely concealed level of hostility.

In covering the American Religious Identification Survey that was conducted in March 2009, the Pew Research Center wrote,

“A comment on the blog Matters of Faith declared, “The media’s tendency to give inordinate attention to religious dimwits and crackpots has seriously damaged the credibility of religious leaders. You rarely read or hear of the miraculously generous work of faith communities in caring for the poor and infirm around the globe. But let someone suggest that the Virgin Mary has appeared in a plate of refried beans and the bulletins circle the globe in minutes.”

This commentary targets one of the media’s main malfunctions when it comes to covering religion in general and Christianity in particular.  As is the case with most stories covered by the mainstream media, the more outlandish, the more the story is pursued.  In practice, this creates a climate of coverage strewn with the “dimwits and crackpots” mentioned above, as journalists lack the understanding or desire to seek a wide array of theological viewpoints.  Meanwhile, thousands of Christian missionaries risk their lives both domestically and internationally to make lasting spiritual and physical change in the lives of those in need.  Yet their stories go widely unnoticed.

Modern democracy hinges in part on a proper understanding of religion amongst journalists, leaders and the general public.  Matters of faith are some of the most personal aspects of American life.  Furthermore, faith is one of the only cohesive forces that, if properly nurtured, leads to interdependence and personal, spiritual and societal growth.  It is a shared and common experience.

Given the religious turmoil present in the Middle East – conflict that has affected America and Americans for for decades – one might think that the media have a responsibility to offer properly informed coverage.  While efforts to ethnically and sexually balance the newsroom have been underway for quite some time, ideological and theological divides have led to tilted and incomplete coverage in matters of faith.  It is time that the media better serve our democracy in covering a subject that will be increasingly important in the coming decades.