Just because Americans enjoy more freedoms than many other countries in our world, does not mean that the citizens are free. Sure you are free to pursue opportunity and a better life so long as you are legally able to do so, haven’t made a mess of your life, are not addicted, are registered, have the means to, the time to, live in an area that has opportunity, and have the acumen, intelligence, and persistence to see it through while you labor intensely while the whole process is taxed.
You get my point. Freedom is not free. People fought and died within institutional prisons for the right for us to possess individual freedom. Personal freedom is defined differently based on who you ask, but have you noticed that each definition says: “You are free…but only up to a point.”
Most people in the world are not financially free. Most Americans cannot go two weeks without a paycheck, yet alone the rest of their lives. Though imprisoned to debt, many consider themselves free…at least on weekends. Yet we all know wealthy people who are not free, and poor people who have tremendous freedom, so what is the difference?
Inner freedom can be possessed in the most dire of circumstances. Inner freedom is a way of seeing, living, thinking and holding reality that keeps your captors to a minimum. If you think few people are financially free, even fewer are free within.
This is the point where religion comes along like a beer vendor at a ball game; “Freedom here, inner freedom here!” To which many reply: “Oh, that sounds great, I’ll take one for the whole family.” Then amidst all the bondage of life, another controlling institution is added which supersedes or displaces lesser captivity. Before long we give all our freedom away believing God will be more favorable to us if we are on this particular team.
Inner freedom is not a commodity sold by religion. It’s the subversive byproduct of the conscious awareness (Gospel) that empowers you to walk away from institutional control. This is why its called Good News. It’s not an invitation to religion, but to a way of seeing the world without being drawn into it’s seductive vortices. Religion uses the stain of human sin to promise their tax base that they will be given the antidote. If this were true, then churches, synagogs, and mosques would have the greatest concentration of people liberated from the inside, something which obviously isn’t happening.
People don’t sin and then become sinners, thus moral behavior modification systems are unable to free us. One aspect of our humanity is that we are sinners (imperfect/afflicted) and thus we sin, but that’s only part of the story, not the whole story. The Christ story is that God takes upon himself all the sins of the world (1 John 2:2), God cancels the “debt” (Colossians 2:14), and breaks down the dividing wall between God and others (Ephesians 2:14).
In other words, God has already provided inner freedom for all people. However, religion remains in power by insisting that it be the purveyor of this message and ratify who has really adopted it by imprisoning people into compliance. Think I’m wrong? Think I overstated it? Try telling people as I do every week that their church is not what is makes the free inside. While they agree on the surface, they are too fearful to actually follow that freedom outside the walls.
“The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:35-36)
All humanity is in some sort of bondage. Our default mode is to live as “slaves to sin.” This tendency remains with us as a daily reminder that we can flagellate ourselves over and over in our purification rituals designed to keep us enslaved to religion, or we can abide or live or find ourselves free from the taxation of sin by living as a son or daughter rather than slave. We really do struggle to believe this apart from some kind of ritual.
The religious mind hates it when I say this, but stop worrying about your sin. Stop believing that you are the worst thing you’ve done. That is a mind trap designed by institutional religion to rob your life, money and time. If the Christ story is true, and you dare to actually believe it, then inner freedom is marked by our letting go of sin. Letting go of sin is not religion’s version of somehow stopping our badness. Letting go of sin, according to Jesus is our ability to see our capacity as a child of God rather than a sinner. Religion wins by making you feel bad.
That changes everything. Are you a slave or son/daughter?
From this perspective we can see that the religious mind is not free because it is always captivated by its sin management system. The free mind is not burdened by our humanity even though we recognize it’s tendencies and limitations. Because we belong to a “human” family where God himself was pleased to dwell, we have the power and the line of sight to sluff off all the unnecessary bulk and burden of religion. We are free to finally learn our true name and live as our true self within the world.
Real inner freedom is the awareness that we are not what any institution says we are, but the awareness that we are all the beloved of God. Freedom is the joyful motivation to follow that awareness wherever it inspires us to go.