Freedom and Morality

Written by Drew on January 9th, 2007

Alexis de Tocqueville was a French nobleman who visited America in the 1830s. Because he was an outsider looking in, Tocqueville was able to perceive how America could be so generous with freedom: Christianity restrained the American people from abusing their freedoms and disciplined them to use them wisely. “Despotism,” he said, “may be able to do without faith, but freedom cannot” (quoted in Jerry Sittser, The Will of God as a Way of Life, p. 58).

Over the last several decades, America has been trading its Christian values for secularism and worldly pursuits. The results are devastating. We no longer possess the restraint that is necessary for freedom to function in a way that benefits those who enjoy it. Freedom demands responsibility, and we have acted very irresponsibly.

Throughout the Iraq War, George W. Bush has reminded us of the need for people to be free. Freedom was one of the arguments given for invading Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a ruthless tyrant who needed to be removed. His power was suppressing the freedom of the Iraqis, causing great suffering. The United States stormed Iraq, removed Saddam, and set up a democracy, but people are still dying. They are free; why are they still suffering?

In a press conference in 2004, the President said, “I believe that freedom is the deepest need of every human soul.” While this conviction was founded on good intentions, it’s wrong. Freedom is not the deepest need of every human soul. That distinction belongs to God. He is our greatest need; only he can satisfy our deepest longings. We were created by him for his glory (Isa. 43:7). We have been wired to search for God in the hope that we might feel our way toward him and find him (Acts 17:26-27). The fear of the Lord is the only thing that makes man whole (Ecc. 12:13). If the Iraq War has taught us anything, it is that nothing, not even freedom, can replace our need to serve and worship our Creator.

The problem is, you cannot invade a country and force its inhabitants to submit to Jesus Christ. It’s been tried before, with horrific results. The human heart, by design, cannot be forced into bending against its will. The rest of the body can be beaten into submission, but not the heart. The heart must choose its own course.

When a nation chooses the way of morality and Christian virtue, it is ready for freedom. Its people may exercise their natural human rights–life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–without self-destructing.

It’s painful to watch America jettison her morals and abuse freedom as a license for sin. Perhaps God will be gracious and give us enough time to realize that righteousness exalts nations, not freedom (Prov. 14:34).


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