This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations I serve.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Why Freedom Means Justice for the Powerless.

Power Changes Everything.

“Freedom of speech” often assumes an equality that does not exist, both among the people and the ideas.  Sometimes the people who most loudly claim freedom of speech are the ones with the loudest most well-funded voices.  This is especially true in a country where the courts have arbitrarily and self-servingly declared that “money is speech.”  
Jesus makes a point of lifting up and privileging the powerless, marginalized, disenfranchised, and voiceless/silenced.  For his followers, freedom of speech can only mean doing the same in our cultural discourse.  In other words, we amplify the voices of weaker people and intentionally diminish the voices of the strong.  It means squashing calls for violence, repression, domination, and silencing of the marginalized, while at the same time giving new privilege and space to voices of arising from situations of oppression, exclusion, powerlessness, and victimization.  
Following the example of the Lord Jesus, his church goes to the places of weakness, disease, brokenness, exclusion, and pain, with messages and practices of healing and welcome.  It also disregards or even casts out the influence of powerful, established interests.  (See Matthew 23:1-36, Luke 1:47-55; 4:18-19; etc.; John 2:13-16 and parallels.) Indeed, beginning as the record of a band of escaped slaves, the whole Bible inherently and reflexively sides with the victims, the losers, and the marginalized. 
“Freedom of religion,” therefore, can never be used by followers of Jesus to victimize or impose their will on others who are weaker.  To use freedom this way is a categorical rejection of Jesus.  
The Scriptures realize that this kind of “freedom” only leads to a further congealing of power among the already powerful.  Hence the rules for life given by God to the people have the effect of preventing the accrual of power in the hands of a few.  That was the regime from which they were delivered in Egypt.  The Torah, especially in a chapter like Leviticus 25,  explicitly provides for the periodic redistribution of wealth — and therefore power — downward.
Freedom isn’t real unless everyone is free.  The only way for everyone to be free is for those who have too much power to lose it, and those who have too little to gain it.  

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