Where’s the Line?
I’m not sure there’s a higher American value than personal freedom. Nearly any conversation in civil discourse, from gun control to economic policies to public speech and religion often end up coming back to this “Don’t Tread on Me” mentality that fed the American Revolution.
“Don’t Tread On Me”… We want to be selves without limits. We want no boundaries, no borders, no limitations. We want to be free, unboxed, uncaged, unrestrained.
We recognize that purely unrestrained freedom isn’t realistic.
I remember learning in elementary school that ‘freedom of speech’ doesn’t mean we can, for instance, shout ‘Fire’ in a crowded movie theater. When our freedom of expression puts others in harm’s way, it becomes toxic to a society.
Similarly, in our relationships we recognize constraints. Our marriage vows bind us, reduce our freedoms (which is why the more cynical among us call marriage a ‘ball and chain’ – an image from prison). We identify friends who take and take and take and never contribute to the other person’s good a toxic friend. Having children involves a complete overhaul of priorities and involves the loss of many freedoms – including the freedom to sleep whenever you want.
And yet we recognize these relationships as good – good for us and good for the world.
Maybe freedom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Maybe it’s a good, but no the highest good. If that’s true, it could change how we engage in conversations over personal freedoms.
Let’s explore in a bit more depth our desire for freedom and what’s behind it. We’ll see that a quest for freedom can become a kind of idolatry (and we’re not the first people to fall for it).