Posts tagged ‘Declaration of Independence’

Freedom and Limits

Happy 246th birthday, America.

On this date in 1776, these United States were formed when the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence. At the heart of the Declaration was a yearning to be free:

That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.

Freedom is the bedrock of the American experiment. But freedom is also funny. Freedom is a precious gift – one that I believe ought to be granted to all people everywhere – and yet, freedom also works best when it is given limits. If you don’t believe me, ask Adam and Eve.

God gave history’s first couple tremendous freedom:

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.” (Genesis 2:16)

But on their freedom, He also placed a limit:

“But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17)

When Adam and Eve transgressed this limit, rather than gaining freedom, they lost freedom, for they became slaves to sin and cursed by death.

In order to be freed from this slavery and curse, a perfectly free God placed limits on Himself as He became incarnate in Christ. As the French Catholic philosopher Emmanuel Falque explains in The Metamorphosis of Finitude:

What makes Christianity is not solely the extraordinary in Christ’s revelation of His glory … It is also and indeed primarily the sharing by the Word incarnate of our most ordinary human condition independent of sin (that is, human finitude and the humanization of the divine).

The phrase “human finitude” is one of the most ponderous mysteries of our faith. In Christ, the infinite became finite. The perfectly free limited Himself for you and for me. And yet, in the apostle Paul’s telling, this finitude and limitedness becomes the basis for true freedom – our freedom:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1)

As we rightfully celebrate our freedoms today, let us remember that our national freedom was won by men and women who willingly gave up their freedoms as they served and sacrificed for this nation. There would be no land of the free if we were not also the home of the brave. And, as we live out of our freedom in Christ, let us also remember that our eternal freedom was won by a man who willingly gave up His freedom as He served us and sacrificed His life for us on a cross.

July 4, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Human Smuggling Comes to San Antonio

San Antonio Walmart Smuggling

Credit: CNN

I first heard about the tractor trailer packed with people in a Wal-Mart parking lot on my city’s south side when a friend sent me a link to a news story as I was preparing for worship a week ago.  As the story unfolded over this past week, the details that have emerged have been grisly.  Up to 200 illegal immigrants may have been crammed into the back of the truck without food, water, or refrigeration as temperatures in south Texas topped 100 degrees.  Ten people died.  Thirty others had to be hospitalized.  Some suffered serious brain damage.  The driver of the truck, James Bradley, told investigators he did not know there were immigrants inside the back of the truck he was driving.  The evidence, however, points to a conclusion that he did.  He has been charged with knowingly transporting illegal immigrants.

Human smuggling is a crime.  What has happened here breaks immigration law and ought to be – and, in fact, is being – treated as a crime. But, of course, there is more to this story than just the legal concerns it raises, for what has happened here is also a terrible assault on human dignity.  People are not commodities to be smuggled, bought, or sold, even if they can be enticed by promises of a better life.  Indeed, one of the people in the back of the truck to San Antonio was from Aguascalientes and paid $5,500 to escape Mexico.  He was willing to pay a steep fee for a long shot at a new life.  And those who transported him were all too willing to take as much money as they could from him, while at the same time recklessly endangering his life.

In the New Testament, Paul writes a letter to a slaveholder named Philemon whose slave, Onesimus, had run away to find asylum with the apostle.  Paul pleads with Philemon to receive Onesimus back “no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.”  Paul then adds, “He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, but as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord” (Philemon 16).  Paul, by how he assumes Philemon regards Onesimus, seeks to persuade Philemon that Onesimus is not a commodity to be recouped, but a human created by God to be loved and respected.

Philosophically, the Declaration of Independence echoes this view that human beings are to be treated with dignity when its drafters write that “all men are created equal,” and, as a necessary entailment of this, are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  The framers of the Declaration insist that no person can be commoditized and stripped of their dignity because every person is created by God and is therefore worthy of respect.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska notes that, although this claim about human dignity is popularly enshrined in an American document, this is a value that should be embraced across humanity.  Senator Sasse explains:

The American idea is that God gives us rights … I think that the distinction we do well to clarify is that the American founding is a truth claim of all 7 billion people on the earth. We believe everyone is created with dignity.

In a tractor trailer that traveled to a Wal-Mart parking lot on the south side of San Antonio, this value was disregarded.  And for that, there must be an accounting.  Human life is just too precious to demand anything less.

July 31, 2017 at 5:15 am 2 comments


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