Most of us think of freedom as “doing what I want.” In other worlds, the absence of rules and restrictions. But that is not the case. Political correctness has shown us quite plainly that in the name of “freedom to express themselves,” all we have really done is swap one set of restrictions for another. Freedom is not about the absence of rules – it is about choosing the right rules and even more importantly, the proper application of those rules.
Why must there be rules? Well, there is a religious answer to that question, but an editorial in this morning’s WSJ got me thinking about a more practical answer. Here’s the key:
This lost opportunity now makes tax reform even more important as a growth driver, but the health-reform failure also hurt tax reform in another major way. The Ryan bill would have reduced the budget baseline for tax reform by some $1 trillion over 10 years.
Rules exist because our perspective is limited. I truly wonder how many people arguing against the AHCA thought about this? Everybody on the Republican side of the aisle had good points about the faults in the bill, but I wonder if they thought about this. See that’s why there are officers in the military and Speakers in the House of Representatives – it’s not because those people are better than us somehow, or simply like to order people around, it is because they are granted a vantage point that allows them a better perspective on the bigger picture. In anticipation of a visit to the Little Bighorn Battleground this summer, I am reading a book on Custer’s Last Stand. If you don’t think vantage point – perspective – makes a difference, read that book. It makes it plain why that battle was what it was.
I was recently involved in a traffic incident. No damage was done, no one was hurt, but it was a near thing and the other party clearly violated traffic law. The other party insisted everything was “OK” because they had seen us and were not going to hit us, which is true enough, but frankly immaterial. The rules are what they are because in a similar situation with a less attentive motor vehicle operator, a death could have been the outcome. This operator’s personal perspective is not the point. If personal perspective is all that matters the only thing that can result is chaos.
Now, that may not be chaos on a grand scale, at least not yet, it may just be chaos in little things. A dozen years ago, I sat on a jury and watched a very guilty man go free because to a sufficient number of jury members decided their personal perspective mattered more than the rules. It was a gross miscarriage of justice, but it was not a violent crime – nothing that was going to bring society crashing down around our ears. It was just one more step in the wrong direction, a direction that can lead to violence.
Everybody has noticed the uptick in protests, mobs, vandalism and general disorder. That’s what happens when people think their personal perspective matters more than the rules. They start disobeying more and more rules, including ones that are far more consequential than the ones I was working with in that jury room. Because personal perspectives are limited, a clash between them is inevitable. It is how we handle those clashes that spells the difference between a decent society and chaos. That’s why there are rules.
Given the current prevailing understanding of what rules are about, Jesus seems self-contradictory. He said He came, “not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it,” and yet He said he also came to set us free. If freedom is the absence of rules, how could He set us free and fulfill the Law at the same time? It is pretty simple really True freedom, which can only be experienced in the context of order becasue in chaos we struggle merely to survive, is not about the absence of rules.
One final note. There are always exceptions to rules, always. In my traffic incident, the other party had a good argument for exception. King David is a fine example of a biblical exception to the rules. But exceptions must be exceedingly rare and very public – born in regret and confession. (read about David completely -the public humiliation he allowed himself in light of his crimes. Or Henry II) When we rely on exception it is very easy for the next guy to claim an exception too, until such time are the rules are rendered meaningless.
Right now we need more order, not more chaos. It is time to put personal perspective into perspective. It is time to listen to those with a more sweeping perspective. It is time to claim our exceptions with humility and confession.