Celebrating Freedom

The crowd belted out The Battle Hymn Of The Republic, the words projected onto a large screen behind the choir.  Beneath the words, as their background, an American flag waved with a cross imposed over it.

After the hymn, four soldiers entered the sanctuary to reverent silence.  They marched to the front and center, lowered the America flag, and the worshipers pledged their allegiance.  To the flag.  And to the nation.  With liberty and justice for all.

Then an interpretive dance to God Bless America.  And then I was introduced.

The church service was to be a “celebration of freedom” – the physical kind, the kind soldiers and senators are said to grant us and I was uncertain how to celebrate something I so thankfully enjoy and yet question the value of so often.  So without speaking I began singing – to give myself time to figure out what to do next.  As I sang about a heart becoming a home, I prayed and remembered the Dominican Republic.

Who knows what I’ll think tomorrow, but yesterday and today I believe physical freedom is merely currency – neither inherently good or evil.  Like a hard earned wage that can purchase sex with a stranger or a meal for a family, freedom is only as virtuous or venomous as the ways in which we choose to invest it.

In the Dominican Republic, I met children without ears, their deafness caused by an American corporation pulling nickel out of the ground and dumping fetus-twisting poison into the local water supply.  I saw slaves bought by a sugar company, imported from Haiti, stripped of citizenship, paid $2 a day, and going to bed hungry.  Freedom bought them this bondage.

The song ended and I tried to convey what I was feeling and thinking as kindly and subtly as I could, peppering the monologue with gratitude for the comfort and opportunity I savor every day in America.  Then more songs.  And finally, what was billed as a “sermon” but I prefer to think of as a story.

It’s the story I tell every weekend – the story of how God put on skin and moved to our planet and announced that he was setting up a kingdom here by enabling people to do what He wants on earth the way it’s done in heaven.  Then I asked the crowd to do it – to do what God wants – to feed, educate, befriend, heal and tell a child in the developing world about Jesus.  And they did.  83 children were sponsored through Compassion International.

That’s freedom well spent.

That’s something I can celebrate.