Tag Archives: Fourth of July

Freedom with a Twist

By Eugene C. Scott

Oppression is chameleon. Throughout human history it has changed its color and adapted itself to every age and every need or right we humans must have. And it’s disguise is always—at first—beautiful, promising. This chameleon usually first promises us safety in a dangerous world, then maybe protection of beloved values, or true peace, or more food, or better wages, and even—paradoxically—freedom. Then somehow, slowly—maybe even unintentionally at times—it changes its color. The trap slams shut and we are caught.

The ancient Israelites came begging Egypt for safety from a famine and wound up enslaved for over 400 years. That was one expensive meal.

In 1789 the French Revolutionaries began an overthrow of a corrupt and absolute monarchy. Freedom, they cried. They wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Then only four years later the Committee of Public Safety began what is now called the Reign of Terror. Up to 40,00 people were killed. The dictator Napoleon followed.

The Russian Revolution in 1917 turned out worse, with an estimated 30 million killed by Stalin’s government. Communist China and North Korea, so-called democratic nations in Africa, and the theocracies of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran have followed suite. To name a few more recent oppressive chameleons. Even the theological American ideal of “manifest destiny” turned murderous.

What is the common denominator in all this oppression? Some today say religion. Others corporations. Some governments. And these are all elements to be sure. But religions, corporations, and governments are made up of people. You and me. Humans are the root of all this oppression.

We are each capable of wreaking it on others or releasing it in the name of getting something we think we need. When I visited that horrific reminder of human oppression, The Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, I realized it was not Nazis or Germans who killed six million Jews. Yes, the murderers wore Nazi uniforms and were mainly German. But beneath those uniforms they wore human skin. This the Bible calls sin. And on this level it is hard to deny.

The good news is we are also capable of resisting oppression. Freedom also comes in many different varieties. Though true freedom is never deceptive nor makes promises of mere safety. Some varieties of freedom come harder than others. With a cost.

Political, economic, religious, personal freedom are the most common freedoms we cry out for. But maybe the most precious freedom is one we avoid at almost all cost: The freedom to not be safe, to cry, to struggle, to suffer. This is the freedom Jesus chose as an expression of his love for us. He freely gave his life for you and me.

Note the difference? Oppression promises to give but really takes. And leaves us no choice in the matter. Only God gives expecting nothing in return. Because God needs nothing.

If anyone ever could become a demanding dictator it is God. Often our cries to God for safety, mere happiness, contentment, a cessation of pain and worry are just that, invitations for God to declare universal marshall law in the name of public safety. But how much more would God’s mighty fist crush us if mere humans such as Pharaoh, Napoleon, Stalin, and Hitler did such thorough work?

So God continually grants us the freedom to suffer. Knowing this then gives us the freedom to love and live as creatures of love.

The ancient Israelites were mud and brick, hard labor, economic slaves in Egypt for over 400 years. But when God tells Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go,’” their freedom is not escaping human oppression. God goes on to say, “Let my people go . . . so that they may worship me.” Worship is an expression of love. Soon enough, faced with a barren and dangerous desert, however, the people are crying out for the safety of Egypt. Give us the leeks and onions of Egypt they tell Moses.

Finally, as these people then stand on the edge of the “promised land” which contains not only “milk and honey” but suffering too, Joshua says, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Those gods, like our gods of protective governments and human systems only take because they cannot give us what we truly need. The freedom to receive and give love.

This freedom is costly. But not as costly as choosing safety and other chameleon promises.

Eugene C. Scott is enjoying the freedom he has and is thankful for both the joy and the suffering it brings. He is also trying to see God in daily life, even in tragedy. Join him in the year The Year of Living Spiritually. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following that blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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4th of July: What Does Independence And The Flag Mean To You?

I love taking pictures of the American flag.  The flag’s outward beauty is evident, but I think what it represents is even more beautiful; Independence.  Freedom to worship without the government telling me how I need to pray or not to pray.

Personally, I have never known religious oppression, but I know it still exists.  Growing up in the United States, I thought everyone had those same freedoms.  When I moved to Guatemala I found out that I was wrong.  Now, Guatemala is a much different place than it was even twenty years ago, and most people are very free to go to whatever church they like, but throughout Guatemala’s history the country struggled to find the right balance between secularism and religiosity.  Mainly the Catholic and Protestant populations fought for control of the government.

Each group tried to impose it’s will onto the rest of Guatemala.  This is a very simplified view of the centuries long struggle in the country.  To go deeper we would have to consider racism, classism, and greed.  Needless to say, Guatemala struggled because it wasn’t founded on independence and the freedom of religion like we were in the United States.

Maybe the reason why I love taking pictures of the flag is because America allows me to love my God.  America lets me place God first in my life.  I can abstain from saluting the flag if I feel like it is overtaking my allegiance to God.  Just think back to the 1930s, in prewar Germany, people had to give the “Hitler Salute” or face severe punishment.  And Germany was supposed to be a “Christian Nation.”  But then again, that’s the same Nazi Germany that murdered millions of Jews just because they didn’t believe in Christ, which doesn’t sound like religious freedom to me, or very Christlike.  I think it was Christ who said love your neighbor like yourself.

I know America has its flaws, but when I look at that flag, I see some of the things we’ve done right.  I thank God for my country, and I pray that some day everyone will experience true independence, true adventure; a free life with God.

I hope you get a chance to take a look at your flag and think about what it means to you.  Happy Fourth Of July!

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The Signing of The Declaration of Dependence

Last Sunday the United States celebrated her two-hundred and thirty-fourth birthday. Though significant, the U.S. is still wearing diapers compared to other nations. Egypt is somewhere around 5,000 years old, Germany dates back to 190A.D. and France is over 1,000 years old.

With such a brief but remarkable history, how is it then that when the Marist Poll asked 1,004 U.S. residents, “From which country did the United States win its independence?” an alarming 26% had no clue?

Is education in the U.S. to blame? Or revisionist history, or bad parenting, or lazy students, or political correctness, or too much information? Yes. And more.

Mostly though, remembering is hard work. But important. And remembering our spiritual history more so. Read on.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

1 Chronicles 2:18-4:4

Acts 24:1-27

Psalm 4:1-8

Proverbs 18:16-18

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Chronicles 2:18-4:4: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” Paul tells Timothy (2 Timothy 3:16).

“Does he means all those hard to follow genealogies too?” I can just hear Timothy ask his friend Titus. “What are those about?”

Though there may not be a verse here worthy of pasting on your bathroom mirror or committing to memory, God is still attempting to communicate with us, even here. For the ancient Hebrews many of these names were attached to stories: stories of brokenness, of faithfulness, of hardship, joy, life, death, God. God touched each of these people whether they responded positively to that touch or not. Unfortunately we know only few of those stories.

Unlike other parts of Scripture, this is not poetry; this is reality. The reality is that God guided history from  “Caleb son of Hezron” all the way down to you. What’s your story?

Acts 24:1-27: Luke was one of the most accurate of ancient historians. Here is a treasure trove of historical detail. Interesting but to what purpose? Two reasons come to mind. First, as with Chronicles, we can see God superintending history and building Christ’s church through Paul’s story. Second, while a persecuted prisoner, Paul is granted audiences with some of the most powerful people in the world. Paul wastes not a minute and tells each the remarkable story of Jesus. Luke records two aspects of history here: factual details and a spiritual history of Paul’s persecution and pain being turned into a better story.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

We’ve all heard it said that, “those who can’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.” Been there, done that. Remembering history, however, holds more value than keeping us from looping back to the same old mistakes. Especially since many of us stumble into the same holes again, despite that we remember the last trip all too well. History is much more than a danger ahead sign.

Biblical history in particular is a genogram: “a graphic representation of the personalities and interplay within a family, used to identify repetitive patterns of behavior.” (Webster’s Unabridged) Biblical history is a graphic representation of who we are and who God is.

Our repetitive patterns are those of disobedience an destruction right along side glory and goodness. David begat the rebellious Absalom from a lawful wife and obedient Solomon unlawfully. Is this not a picture of me and you?

And who is God? God is the One who responds with reproof, correction, long-suffering and mercy.

Chronicles is our genealogy, our family, warts and all. Then Acts shows us God’s response, our story. Just as God’s children did in the past, the Jews tried to kill God’s messenger, Paul. Yet God, just as he did in the past, protects, guides, speaks and through a powerful mercy–in the end–overcomes. This is our story, then and now.

Could you and I write a “chronicle” of the names of the people (and remember their stories) God used in our lives? Could you and I write a history retelling the detailed facts and spiritual history of God’s “acts” in our lives?

Remembering is hard work. But important.

It’s a shame 26% of Americans can’t remember the details of the birth of their own nation. I wonder if other civilizations such as Egypt also suffer from a similar historical amnesia? Probably.

I suspect that many of us who live in God’s kingdom, have developed amnesia about our spiritual birth both as a people and as individuals.

For Americans the Fourth of July is a day to remember our “Declaration of Independence” from England. What if we the people of Christ took the Sixth of July to remember all God has done for us? And then with fireworks blazing overhead we all sign a “Declaration of Dependence,” a dependence on a faithful, loving God.

  1. Which reading spoke to you?
  2. Who are your spiritual ancestors?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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