The Collective Nature of Freedom | Sojourners

The Collective Nature of Freedom

We tend to think of liberty as a fancy word confined to the parchment of historical documents. We sometimes define freedom as an individual right — I’m free to do whatever I want, so long as I don’t hurt anyone else all that much.

I don’t think that’s the case.

Liberty and freedom aren’t fancy words or individual guarantees. They’re a process that requires everyone’s participation. We can’t have liberty and justice for all until we’re willing to see the injustice and the lack of liberty all around us, and commit ourselves to doing something about it.

Liberty is participatory. Freedom is a process. Neither one freely exists — they have to be created out of a determination that everyone will be treated as equally important and equally beloved.

Each of us has a responsibility to get involved.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said his letter from a Birmingham jail: “I cannot sit by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Today, let’s resolve to make freedom ring a little louder. 

Freedom for black citizens to finally be treated as equals in all respects, in a society that has relegated them to the status of property for most of history.

Freedom for women to finally be treated as equals in all ways, in a society that has relegated them to second-class status.

Freedom for Muslims, Jews, and people of all faiths to practice their faith without intimidation or coercion from those who believe differently.

Freedom for LGBTQ and transgender citizens to be treated as equal citizens in all respects.

Freedom for people with mental or physical challenges to be accepted as equal citizens and given a chance to contribute without creating even more barriers and walls.

Freedom for hurting people to receive healing they need without additional financial barriers in their path.

Freedom for struggling people to get the assistance that they need without being demeaned, ignored, or turned away.

Let freedom ring a little louder. 

Freedom from the tyranny of elevating the desires of powerful people over the needs of others.

Freedom from the tyranny of prizing individual wealth over the common good.

Freedom from the fear and prejudice and anger that imprison each of us and shred the social fabric that is necessary for us to live in harmony.

Freedom from the influence of shrill and divisive voices that play upon our worries and prejudices and seek to lessen our collective liberty out of fear.

Freedom from the lie that I am the only one who matters and what happens to others is none of my concern.

Freedom from the violence that is the inherent product of our obsession with weapons and war as ways to solve problems.

Freedom from the falsehood that bullying — in our personal lives or our collective lives — is the way to achieve greatness.

Yes, that freedom — let it ring louder.