Monday, March 21, 2011
Almost a week ago (last Tuesday), we were at Ground Zero. This site, full of so much trauma and death and destruction, also holds stories of bravery, compassion and honor. I’ve always cocked my head a little bit at the word “freedom” when it’s used in a political context.
Still, as that word made its appearance multiple times on signs, in proposed names of memorials, and in slogans found throughout the World Trade Center site, its use felt particularly profane to me. The political appropriation seemed to dishonor the stories that were so powerful.
The national narrative that includes stories of persecution, attack, and revenge (and my own reaction to that particular telling) over-rode stories of firefighters rushing up stairs with 90 pound packs on to rescue workers. It over-rode stories of Muslims and Christians and Hindis and Jews dying side by side, jumping out of top storied windows. It overrode stories of pieces of bodies being found within 16 blocks of the World Trade Centers. This particular national narrative subsumes the particularity of individual stories of suffering and loss, of bravery and loyalty. And in that, it somehow denies the courage, honor, bravery shown that day – courage that is rooted in another sort of freedom.
A freedom that comes from knowing who you are, and Whose you are.
Now this is decidedly theistic language, but I am an ELCA pastor, and that is the lens through which I see the world.
Upon reflecting on this experience, it seems as if the political use of the word “freedom” bugs me so much because it has such deep and rich theological connotations.
As Lutheran Christians, we believe in a God who leads with mercy and love, and that is our starting point. Because our salvation is secure in Christ, we are freed by this love to love the world. We are freed to be curious about the world. We are freed to learn and serve and love alongside people of other faiths. We are freed to look around us for signs of God in the here and now fleshiness of this world. And we are freed to acknowledge that we may not know all of the answers to how God might be showing up. This is freedom, brothers and sisters. And it is a wonderful thing.