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Understanding Freedom

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So there is this:

Senate Democrats on Monday blocked a Republican bill that would have threatened prison time for doctors who don’t try saving the life of infants born alive during failed abortions, leading conservatives to wonder openly whether Democrats were embracing “infanticide” to appeal to left-wing voters.

All prominent Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls in the Senate voted down the measure, including Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The final vote was 53-44 to end Democratic delaying tactics — seven votes short of the 60 needed.

That just sort of takes ones breath away.  It is so immoderate, so outrageous, so heinous that you want to stand high somewhere and shout condemnations.  The first blush reaction is, “if there were ever a reason do to away with the legislative filibuster, this is it!”  But somehow that just seems too easy.

As the quotation points out, the Senators have decent political reason to vote the way they voted.  Here is the question I have – Could the voters that support this “right” really walk away from a living, breathing newborn?  Could they really watch the child die?  Humans are capable of astonishing atrocities:

According to a multiplicity of reports, an un-named woman–an octogenarian living in a nursing home and experiencing dementia– was euthanized against her will.

Are you aware that it has been argued that abortion is a reasonable tool to use to combat climate change?  Not about a woman’s “rights” – climate change.  And in some places, people that posit these types of arguments are considered heroes on a level with Superman and Captain America.  This is easy to condemn, easy to be outraged about, but there is something deeply and fundamentally wrong.  Outrage and condemnation may motivate votes, but they don’t fix the problem.  Votes cannot fix the problem.  It is not the political system that is broken.  It is people.

On MSNBC earlier this week, Katy Tur uttered something astonishingly revealing, “I think if you don’t believe in climate change, you don’t believe in science.”  One does not “believe” science, or “in” science.  Science is about data and evidence, not belief.  But that set me thinking about one of the most confusing passages in the Bible, Romans 6:15-23.  In it, Paul talks about finding freedom by ceasing to be “slaves to sin,” and becoming “slaves to righteousness.”  How can one find freedom by becoming a slave to anything?

I am reminded of the oft-quoted G.K. Chesterton:

When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.

What we are seeing here is that people need boundaries in their thoughts and deeds.  That is what Chesterton is saying – that is what Paul means when he talks about being a “slave to righteousness” – a set of boundaries.  I love this part of the passage from Romans:

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.

Think about how astonishingly prophetic that is.  People have achieved “freedom from religion,” and in its wake have come stories of infanticide and euthanasia – literal death.

And so we look at these most horrifying stories of culture and we see them as a result not just of politics, but of sin, we have to ask if outrage and condemnation is really the best response.  Of course, we must recognize and acknowledge the wrong that is evident in these positions, but acknowledging wrong is different than outrage and condemnation.

The Christian responds to sin with the gospel – the gospel of Christ – the gospel of love.

And here is where it gets very serious.  For so many of us the gospel is a rhetorical thing, a set of beliefs to be easily understood and precisely stated.  But that is so limiting.  That limited understanding of the Gospel is from which outrage and condemnation flows.  That is an intellectual Gospel.  But the Gospel of Christ reaches us on deeper levels.  The Gospel is not just about how we think, it is about who we are on the deepest possible levels.

We are clearly failing to bring this Gospel to our culture, so I have to wonder if we have allowed ourselves to be satisfied with a purely rhetorical gospel.

As I pray today I pray for our culture that seems to have embraced death so thoroughly.  But more I pray for the Church.  I pray that we can be so thoroughly infused with the Gospel at the deepest levels that we can love away the death.


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Friends and Allies of Rome