Today I heard a radio program that featured a young man from eastern Europe who was trying to understand the concept of freedom. He continually heard the term “free world” in reference to America, but did not understand what it meant. What does it mean to be free?
Does free mean that I can do whatever I want? Does free mean others can do whatever they want? What happens when the thing I want conflicts with the thing my neighbor wants?
What freedom is more important? What restriction is more important?
It is very odd to me that those who are most opposed to the regulation of societal behaviors (affirmative action, civil rights legislation, hate speech laws) have little problem putting limits on individual freedoms (limitations on speech, drinking laws). The reverse is also true. Those who demand unlimited personal freedom have no problem restricting corporate freedom. Does it simply come down to the fact that we are willing to restrict the liberties that are not important to us personally? Do we secretly want to force everyone to be like us?
Maybe this is a conundrum that has no good answer, but it seems to me that if we all truly value freedom, then we should value other people’s freedom to do things that we don’t like. If you want to get drunk every night, own 47 shotguns, call gay people names, and write books with lots of bad words, I might not approve of your behavior, but I will allow you the freedom to do what you want.
It seems to me that this is the Godly attitude to have. The Christian attitude is usually understood to be that of imposing certain behaviors and rules on others, but this is certainly not the example that God set. God showed humanity the best way to live, but then He gives us the freedom to choose our own way.