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Thou shalt not besiege the capital

Biblical freedom is all about submitting to the common good.

Freedom. I thought about that word as I was feeding the cows this morning. What is a “freedom rally”? In the Bible, the exodus from Egypt is perhaps the archetype of freedom. Exodus is the story of freedom from slavery, freedom to serve God in the desert. Freedom to forge a new national identity, guided by a covenant in the shape of a treaty with God, the Ten Commandments. 

For the past few weeks, Christians in the “freedom convoy” have been protesting vaccine mandates in Ottawa and other cities. They are protesting because they want freedom. Have they, in their churches, read The Law on Sunday mornings? I wonder what they are asking for freedom from. From laws? From rules? 

The Judeo/Christian scriptures can help us sort out the present crisis. Laws, say many of us in our hearts and minds, are things to control us, to keep us in line, to keep our baser instincts in check. Laws make us bristle when they go against our desires. 

But I don’t see laws, including the Ten Commandments, as negative at all. They are, as one of my clergy friends once said, “road signs on the way to freedom.” I know Christianity better than Judaism, so I’ll speak from a Newer Testament perspective. Christians believe that they may participate as ministering members of a world because of the work of Jesus Christ, who in his life, teachings, example, death and resurrection dealt a fatal blow to our baser natures, a fatal blow to the evil one.   

Law shows us how to live: by loving God, by loving our neighbours. But perhaps more importantly, law frees us – if we co-operate with Jesus’ plans for this world – law frees us to do good. Law is not a matter of rules but of ability. It is the ability to be faithful because the Faithful One has done God’s work for us. It gives us the ability to love rather than hate our neighbour. Law, when we accept it as a gift, frees us from the idolatry of power, wealth, greed and pride. 

Laws to live by

When I taught high school long ago, I engaged the students with the Older Testament book of Deuteronomy. While very much of that book remained mysterious to us, other parts were clear as a map to a happy, fulfilled life on this earth. Sanitary laws, laws about treatment of foreigners, laws relating to what we call Nature: these laws pointed those ancient nomadic Hebrews to a way of living a life of shalom as they moved into a more or less settled life in Palestine/Canaan. 

As for the Ten Commandments, does anyone really believe that hatred and murder make a better world than love and understanding? Does anyone prefer family lives marked by adulterous parents? Or divorce? Would you prefer to live in a world marked by generosity or covetousness and greed? Someone wrote a psalm (#119) that uses 176 verses to praise the blessing of law – the Torah! Maybe humanity B.C.E. already had a pretty good idea that considering God before Self, the neighbour’s flourishing as necessary for our own, and submission to the common good of this world are the keys to a life of peace, joy, fulfillment, health and celebration. This is what Jews call shalom, and what Arab-speakers call salaam. Put in that context, it’s almost no sacrifice to wear a mask, to honour the knowledge of medical practitioners, to give up much travel. 

Hunger for righteousness

I hope that if I feel called to demonstrate, it will be for human life, for pregnant women and the children they carry, for the immigrants, for Indigenous peoples, the partly-abled and the full-abled, the old, the young, the lonely rich, the aliens, the hosts. Freedom is a gift to me and is intended to be used for others. It often comes through obedience and submission to law that is meant to protect my neighbour and to set him or her free – from conditions that deny my neighbour’s value or enslave my neighbour to large forces in this world that see human beings as means to an end, not ends in themselves who exist for the glory of God. 

In every decision, will my actions help the world see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Even Christians with a different view of Biblical Law will no doubt affirm, regarding the fruit of the Spirit, that “against such things there is no law (Gal. 3:38).” 

Will my neighbours who don’t know Jesus Christ see him pronouncing a blessing on my actions as those of meekness, peace-making, as coming from a heart of purity, a hunger not for my way of seeing a current issue, but a hunger for righteousness?

A Prayer for our Country

On February 11, the Canadian Council of Churches issued a prayerful statement calling Canadian Christians to focus on the values we share and demanding an end to all hate speech associated with the protests in Ottawa.

Author

  • Curt Gesch

    Curt Gesch and his wife lead the singing via Zoom for a combined service of small United Church congregations in central B.C. each Sunday morning. In the afternoon, they lead a Friends and Family Zoom worship from their home. If you'd like to join that service, please write Curt at moc.liamg@36hcsegc.

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5 Comments

  1. The biggest indicator of the prevalent unrighteousness in Canada is not the protestors, nor is it a prime minister who would rather pursue military interventions than dialogue with said protestors. Instead it is the collective subcontracting out of the formation of our perspective and love of others to whatever authoritative voice from our ideological side.

    The fight then, is to be seeing all people with the love that Jesus has for them and forming our perspective of them from that love.

    This is the fight against sin, and the fight for righteousness that we must be engaging in at this time. It is the biggest danger to our country and to our church. We are all in this battle.

  2. You forgot to mention that the vaccines did not provide the protection that was promised, and therefore were not ethical to mandate. No mandate, no protest.

    The law protects, but sometimes humans make unjust laws. I would assume you would agree with that statement.

  3. Thank you, Curt, for thoughtfully bringing the discussion back to what Biblical study can say about freedom. So many people involved in these protests have invoked God and Jesus and country without really understanding.

    Such people wish to be “free” from a society that requires any accommodation to protect the health and safety of others. Why stop at masks? Why not demand an inherit right to not use a seat belt or to drive the speed limit? There is no difference in these arguments, but look ridiculous when we discuss anything other than masks.

    As for vaccines, there never was a requirement for everyone to get a vaccine. There is no “mandate”. People could continue to shop at essential services without a vaccine. And a safety requirement for a job, a vaccine, is not about freedom. The small minority of truckers refusing to get vaccinated are free to find work elsewhere. These same truckers have complied with many other safety requirements for their jobs, yet have not complained about their freedom being infringed in regards to those.

    When I think of vaccines, I think of my parents. I think of my mother who is in her 80s, who was a nurse on four countries (Netherlands, Ivory Coast, England and Canada). She saw first hand how vaccines have saved many lives. My father was a pig farmer and saw first hand how vaccines saved the lives of many animals.

    Both my parents have had the three vaccine shots. They put on masks when going to the stores. They’ve been watching church online for two years. They are doing everything they can to keep themselves safe and those around them. We as children are also doing all we can to keep them safe by being vaccinated. Yet there seem to be many in the church that don’t see it the same way.

    Brandon, your premise is incorrect. The vaccines are doing what has been “promised”. The scientists and the officials have been clear all along about how difficult it is to create a vaccine for this kind of virus. Yet it was done. And the data shows clearly that the vaccine protects the lives of those getting it, by reducing greatly the need for hospitalization. A law requiring truckers get vaccinated, even if it means the truckers need to get boosters, is not unjust. The vaccine works well enough.

    1. Not sure why I ended up back here, but I guess I’ll respond.

      “Stop the spread” was the promise. Vaccines didn’t deliver. Efficacy was the promise. Efficacy was not delivered (less than 70% and falling with each booster now that real-world data is out (which was known in March)). CDC, Moderna, and Pfizer admitted it earlier this year. To ignore this and say the vaccines worked the way they were promised is willfully ignorant and dishonest.

      Second: no, seatbelts shouldn’t be mandated. speed limits can be. those are different issues. One affects the self. The other affects the safety of others. The vaccines didn’t stop the spread so the taking/rejecting doesn’t affect the safety of others. Plain and simple.

      Third: What an incredibly heartless thing to say about truckers and the mandates. Essential services may not have been limited by mandates, but you need money to buy groceries. Every job is essential to the person who works it because it is their source of income. Tell the nurses, truckers, transportation workers, police, firefighters, federal and provincial employees, students, and scores of private sector workers who lost their jobs that the shots weren’t “mandated.” I’m sure they would disagree.

      I’m glad your parents were able to get the shots. Vaccines have saved lives. People can get the vaccine and protect themselves. But if you decide to go swimming with a life jacket on, don’t get mad at people who decide not to wear one. You are protected. If the vaccines actually stopped the spread, this would be a different conversation.

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