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21 July 2015

Loving Liberty is Tough

I love Liberty. I think it holds the key to curing so many of the world's ills: poverty, exploitation, church-state conflicts, discrimination, tons of things. Liberty lifts. Liberty strengthens. It ennobles.

Liberty is very, very unpopular.

Sure, people sometimes pay lip service to Liberty and the Constitution, but in general, people don't understand either, and they aren't that interested, and they don't like the sound of it.

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion... (D&C 121:39)

"We need to use government to compel people to help, because otherwise people won't do..."

"We have to have compulsory education laws because otherwise people won't..."

I see it all the time. People don't want liberty because they want to force their neighbor to "be good." Which means some very different things to different people. Or, they'll come at it from the other side: it's been so common to use government as a limitless lever to shove people, that individuals can't imagine how anything could possibly get done without that shove. And, when you suggest that Liberty would not only work to improve society, but work better than compulsion, people often get pretty upset.

Add to that an awareness of just how much Liberty has been lost (the losses in the past 100 years are staggering), and it can sometimes get pretty disheartening.

Who am I kidding? It's completely discouraging, and if it wasn't that I am convinced that Liberty is an eternal principle, and an essential part of the Lord's plan, and also convinced that the Lord has things under control and the evil attacks on Liberty and all else that's good will be, in the end, utterly futile, I would give up. It's hard, constantly rocking the boat. It's exhausting, emotionally. It takes a toll on relationships I cherish, sometimes a heavy toll, and sometimes the cost is high, and I can't always see that my words have any impact, whatsoever.

I have long been fascinated by the story of Isaiah's call as a prophet.

Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking int he midst of the land.

But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof. (Isaiah 6:8-13)

I've been drawn to it since I was a teen, before I really understood any more than that Isaiah was being sent on a hard, hard mission. "Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant." That's a good long time to preach while nobody's listening. I admire a man who can take on an assignment, knowing it's going to be that. And I ached for the people who refused all the Lord's efforts to heal them. For a long time, that's all I saw from this passage. I didn't understand the last verse well enough to take anything from it. But my husband gave me Strong's Concordance for my birthday, and I've begun exploring the Hebrew and Greek meanings of some of the difficult words in the Bible, and it makes things so much clearer. The word that's rendered "substance" in this verse, is a "pillar" in Genesis 35:14&20. Well, the pillar of an oak tree is its trunk, which looses its leaves every fall, but then grows them back again. Isaiah's mission was to testify of Christ, and he taught the people that Christ would proclaim Liberty to the captives, and heal the brokenhearted. No, people then mostly didn't listen to Isaiah, but that didn't tell the whole story, any more than a oak's naked branches in early winter is all that's left of the tree.

More than once, I've stepped back, and tried to stop talking about Liberty. But the Gospel of Christ is all about Liberty, and if we are to exercise our hard-won agency we need to protect the Liberty that gives us the space in which to use it.  Every time, the Spirit gives me a breather, and then asks me to go back and do it some more. Talk some more. Try again to show people the gift that Liberty really is.

Still, watching the news, the outlook for Liberty right now is pretty bleak. However, I recently read an article that reminded me again, and in a new way, that the news isn't all that there is to the story.

It is crucial not only to think about the problem but also to see the solutions being lived out all around us. We need to learn to observe the marvelous businesses starting and succeeding every day, the beauty of spontaneous human interaction, the order and prosperity that emerge from the exercise of human choice. We should thrill in the many ways that people go about their lives in casual defiance of the central plan. We can glory in the creations all around us that were never mapped out or approved by politicians, or by the experts in their pay.

In other words, focusing on the solutions rather than solely on the problems can brighten your day and give rise to creativity in the service of the good. Liberty is not just the absence of oppression; it is the presence of well-lived lives and institutions that emerge despite every attempt to stop them. In this sense, freedom is blossoming all over the world. If we can focus on making that positive change, rather than dwelling on what’s wrong with the world, our task becomes more delightful and a dedication to liberty becomes more sustainable.

I love that. Look at the solutions being lived around us. Focus on the positive changes. Look for the wins. I need to get better at both seeing them, and at talking about them. After all: one good thing leads to another.

1 comment:

Anne Chovies said...

Looking for positive successes - I like that. For myself, I've long thought that rest l real, lasting liberty probably won't happen until everyone is willing to live the Gospel - I agree that evil will always attack liberty; it's what he's done from the beginning. It's why he was cast out into the earth and not someplace else. Personally, I am also growing weary and looking forward to his time of captivity.


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