Are we living in Fear or Freedom? What seems to be governing our lives today and keeping us from enjoying the freedoms we once took for granted? We fear catching COVID-19, we fear riots, we fear saying the wrong thing and incurring the wrath of the speech police. Fear is a motivator, but does Fear ever produce laws that protect, much less expand, our freedoms? Or does it inevitably, restrictively whittle them away so slowly we become desensitized to their loss? Is it just me, or do I sense an erosion of personal freedoms?
Yes, we have made great strides in dealing with racism in this country but we clearly still have a ways to go. And the Fear Train will not get us there. True Freedom empowers us to do what is right while Fear does nothing but cause paralysis.
Some recent restrictions make sense in light of the current pandemic. Nevertheless, we should be vigilant. But what are the implications of the so-called Progressive agenda to our country’s freedom and liberty? Never has Freedom of Assembly, Freedom to Bear Arms, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion been so hotly debated as they have in recent months. How will changes in government policy impact our freedoms?
Ever get the feeling that you are living through a prophecy in the process of being fulfilled?
During one of my “deep in thought” moments, I recalled a conference I attended in the late 1970s. “How Should We Then Live?” was a book and later a speaking tour by the author Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984). Schaeffer was an American evangelical theologian, philosopher, and Presbyterian pastor. Called a “missionary to intellectuals” by Time Magazine, Schaeffer’s book and speaking tour offered a Christian view of the rise and decline of Western thought and culture. I remembered being fascinated by this philosophical, intellectual preacher-man with a balding head, high-pitched voice, and silver goatee. Though he lacked a commanding physical presence, he communicated biblical truth with such clarity, I found myself captivated by how he described the decline of Western civilization.
He pointed out that Western culture, especially in America, had adopted two bankrupt values of “personal peace and affluence.” Say what?
In his 1976 book, “How Should We Then Live?” Schaeffer wrote,
“Gradually, that which had become the basic thought form of modern people became the almost totally accepted viewpoint, an almost monolithic consensus. And as it came to the majority of people through art, music, drama, theology, and the mass media, values died. As the more Christian-dominated consensus weakened, the majority of people adopted two impoverished values: personal peace and affluence.
“Personal peace means just to be let alone, not to be troubled by the troubles of other people, whether across the world or across the city — to live one’s life with minimal possibilities of being personally disturbed. Personal peace means wanting to have my personal life pattern undisturbed in my lifetime, regardless of what the result will be in the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren. Affluence means an overwhelming and increasing prosperity — a life made up of things, things, and more things — a success judged by an ever higher level of material abundance.” (1)
During his speaking tour of the same name, Schaffer offered a prophetic warning. As the Christian consensus continues to weaken, Americans will be willing to sacrifice their freedom and liberties, without raising their voices, to preserve these two bankrupt values of personal peace and affluence.
Later in his book, “How Should We Then Live?” Schaeffer observes, “Politics has largely become not a matter of ideals — increasingly men and women are not stirred by the values of liberty and truth — but of supplying a constituency with a frosting of personal peace and affluence. They know that voices will not be raised as long as people have these, or at least an illusion of them.” (2)
He wrote this 44 years ago. Has anything changed?
Where are we headed? Schaeffer again offers a prophetic vision of the future by looking to the past. Schaeffer highlights the observations of the English historian Edward Gibbon (1737-1794). Gibbon wrote his six-volume work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in the late 18th century. Gibbon noted five attributes that marked Rome at its end. (3)
- A mounting love of show and luxury (affluence).
- A widening gap between the very rich and the very poor.
- An obsession with sex.
- Freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity.
- An increased desire to live off the State.
As we continue to sever our roots to a moral belief system of absolutes, we should be mindful that “if there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute.” (4) In the absence of a Christian-based consensus, the slide toward relativistic humanism creates a state of chaos. And society cannot stand chaos. In its place, there is only one alternative — an authoritarian state.
John Adams once said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” A corollary to that is this observation from an unknown author, “Without virtue, a society can only be ruled by fear.”
I have to wonder how long our republic will last when our nation is no longer a moral and religious people and we are ruled by a spirit of fear.
What kind of freedom will we have then?