Friday, February 20, 2009

American Idol

During a discussion I was having one time with a prominent Christian businessman who also happens to be a pastor, I was told that freedom is the “American Idol”. As is the case with many other Christians, it is my desire to eliminate all idols from my life. My family has stopped participating in the Christmas tree ritual because of the clear mandate in Jeremiah 10. We have removed all outside connection to the outer world through our television and only use it to watch occasional videos or movies in line with the 1st Commandment. We have removed our children from programs where our childfren are required to recite the pledge of allegiance in accordance with the 2nd Commandment. All this, and more, have we done in an effort to remove the pagan influence in our lives and to serve the one, true God. As such, I felt it necessary to carefully examine this charge that freedom is an idol.
True, many spend the majority of their waking time focused on freedom. True also, that many are spending countless hours fighting for freedom, whether that is on a battlefield somewhere or in the courthouse. True too, that many would be willing to lay down their life for the concept of freedom. Does this much devotion, time and energy qualify this concept as an idol? It certainly could!
Of course, one objection to this charge is that our founding fathers fought so vigorously for freedom, and that without their sacrifice, we never would have had freedom in the first place. While this may be true, the founding fathers could have been wrong. What if they were misguided and misled about God’s purpose and plan? Would that then make it right for us to strive for the same things they strove for? The obvious answer here is, “Of course not!”
Interestingly enough, my son is researching a geography fair report on Puerto Rico. In his studies on this beautiful island, he came across a very interesting little historical piece. When the Spaniards first landed on Puerto Rico, just as was true in many other instances, they were thought to be gods. Of course, the good ‘christian’ Spaniards did nothing to assure their new friends that this was far from the truth. Instead, they capitalized on this worship by enslaving those whose lands they were on while they proceeded to rape and pillage not just the land, but the populace.
After a period of years of serving their Spanish gods unquestioningly, one group of Puerto Ricans finally had enough and came up with an ingenious plan. While leading one of their god-like leaders through the local terrain, they risked their very lives and the lives of their families by drowning the Spanish slave master. This drowning was not done out of meanness or any desire to torture a fellow man, instead it was a daring attempt to find out if this really was a god who was immortal. You see, if this man truly were a god, then he would come back to life and all of those involved in the drowning, as well as their families most likely, would be killed as punishment for such an act. If, however, this man were not a god, then these natives understood that they would no longer need to blindly serve, but could rather fight them for their freedom.
After watching the Spaniard for three days to see if he would be resurrected, the natives headed back to their village and made the shocking announcement that these captors and masters of theirs were not gods, and were not immortal. Upon receiving this news, the natives rose up and began to fight the Spaniards in a feeble attempt to win their freedom. Had they not waited the three years or so that they did, they may have been successful, as it was they failed.
This got me to wondering, would God have placed in man such a strong desire for freedom if freedom was not something that he desired for us to have? He placed in us a desire for relationship and companionship because he desired those things for us and from us. He placed in us a need for love and respect, work, communication, and so many other things that are clearly a gift and a blessing from our Creator. Since this desire for freedom is so strong, could it also be a gift from above, or is it just some delusion that comes to us from the enemy? Naturally, the answer must come from God’s word if it is to have any merit.
The first account of God giving his people freedom is, interestingly enough, found in the book of Genesis in the 2nd chapter. God, desiring willful devotion from his creation, gave man the freedom to choose between being obedient by leaving alone the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the choice to eat and be aware of sin. If freedom were just an idol, God would not have been the one to ordain freedom and would not have offered it to his creation.
Further in scripture, we find that God’s people were captive slaves in the land of Egypt. While God’s children hated the oppression and abuse that went with such a lowly estate, they were content to remain in such a state of comfortable captivity rather than chance some new and, possibly, uncomfortable environment. This mentality coming from his own people was not acceptable to God, so he ordained Moses to rile up both his people and the captor, Pharaoh, and lead them to the promise of true freedom.
We can see that God’s people were exceptionally resistant to the idea of freedom, thus costing them 40 years of misery wandering in and through a desert and, ultimately, cost them their lives as God refused to allow that kind of poisoned thinking to live on and negatively impact the worldview of the next and future generations.
As a result of their experience in Egypt, or maybe more accurately as a reminder of God’s plan for his children’s freedom, God provides a provision for freedom in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 15. In this statute that God expounds, he gives the command that none of his people should ever serve another for longer than a period of 7 years, and that at the end of this time, the servant must be sent out with enough money and goods to make his own way. In this way, God was assuring his people that they would never have to live again in permanent bondage.
While there are many other scriptures that I may address in future essays regarding God’s desire for his children to have freedom on this earth, these suffice to illustrate that freedom, rather than being the ‘American Idol’ is rather the ‘Godly Ideal’. We can also see, as is evidenced by this pastor with whom I had this discussion and many other prominent ‘christian’ leaders in America, that God’s people have not changed much in the last 4000 years. We still prefer comfortable servitude to the discomfort associated with being free and having to accept personal responsibility for ourselves and our own actions. The latter of which I believe is the true issue at hand.