We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner “Freedom Now” they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the author of Liberty. —President George W Bush, January 20, 2005
“Liberty is an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled.” Stirring words proclaiming a radical and controversial proposition: That Liberty is the just hope and rightful expectation of every human being. When I heard George Bush say these words, I could see that he believed them. More than that, I heard a declaration of mission, a commitment to use the power he has been delegated to make these words true in America, Iraq, and perhaps elsewhere.
He won’t succeed, but he’ll shake things up a bit. Since Pharaoh enslaved Israel to build monuments to his greatness, and Nero entertained Rome by feeding Christians to lions, there have always been men who thrive on brutality and human slavery. Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Jean Kambanda, Charles Taylor, Idi Amin, ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier. History is full of them. Tens of millions have suffered at their hands and such men are still being born—the world has not seen its last Hitler.
Bush won’t succeed, but it’s important that he try. The American dream started with the Pilgrims, Christians who were willing to risk everything on the slim hope of making a fresh start for God in a New World. Their sacrifice has also meant freedom for Jews, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and atheists. (America is no longer a Christian nation, but America would not exist in its present form were it not for the vision and sacrifice of Christians, which is why the movement to strip society of Christian symbols is so galling to Christians. At the very least, it shows a remarkable lack of gratitude.)
Liberty has produced wealth and plenty and good times for America. There is a temptation to hoard the blessings of liberty for ourselves, to shut our eyes to those who are still suffering daily oppression, those who have never known freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the freedom to peaceably assemble and freedom of religion. If Bush is right, that “history has a visible direction, set by liberty and the author of Liberty,” it seems wise to place ourselves on the right side of history, on the right side of the hand of God.
From Moses to Jesus, from Martin Luther to Martin Luther King, the pursuit of liberty has spoken many languages and spanned the entire course of recorded history. From Stirling Bridge to Valley Forge, from Antietam to the Ardennes Forest, the pursuit of liberty has always required sacrifice and the spilling of blood. The cost has been high, but generations of men and women have willingly paid the price to secure liberty’s blessings for themselves and their children.
One final thought. If Christians have a “thing” about liberty, it is because of the example they have seen at Calvary. To secure liberty, Christ himself willingly entered this world and walked resolutely towards the cross, where his flesh was torn and his blood spilt so that ordinary men and women might enjoy the blessings of Liberty.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue stared at him intently. Then he said, “This Scripture has come true today before your very eyes!” Luke 4:18,21, NLT (Jesus speaking)
The One Big Thing that lies at the heart of America is not Entrepreneurialism or Private Property or Conservativism… It’s the notion of a set of universal human rights founded on the cornerstone of Liberty. That notion is historically a Judeo-Christian idea, but its Author has had it in mind since before the beginning of time.