In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus Christ says:
“[A]nd you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”
Gospel of Mark, Chapter 12, Verses 30-31
With these two verses, Jesus summarizes the Jewish Law. All of the rules of Christianity and all the teachings of Jesus are found in these two verses. And it is within these two verses that the extraordinary difficulty of Christian living is found.
These teachings are difficult not in their context but in what they require: love. Love is easy to give when it is reciprocated. it is much more difficult to give when it is not. Because of this, many Christians (myself included), fail in this task. Defending someone who means you harm is very difficult to do.
This is the exact same case in the eternal struggle for liberty. Just as Christianity requires us to love your neighbor and pray for your enemies, so does the fight for liberty require us to fight for the liberty of all, even those who wish to mean us harm. The fight for liberty means defending the rights of Neo-Nazis to march in a Jewish town just as much as defending the rights of a scientist to circulate his literature. It means defending the rights of a business owner to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding as much as defending the right of a black person to open a business free of harassment. It means defending the rights of a Mexican to move to America as much as defending the rights of a New Hampshirian to become a Virginian. It means defending the rights of a terrorist as much as defending the rights of a falsely accused man.
Unfortunately, this uniform defense of rights often gets us painted with some pretty horrible brushes. As Christ was pained as a criminal and traitor for preaching the Kingdom of God is open to all, including the tax collectors and prostitutes, so are we labeled Nazis or White Supremacists for defending the rights of Nazis or White Supremacists. Unfortunately, this overly broad characteristic leads to many misunderstandings and scares many people away from fighting for liberty. There are also those who violate the commandments of liberty and fight only for their liberty while denying others theirs.
I write this post under the shadow of another mass killing in France. Within hours of the attack, there were those who, nominally under the guise of liberty, began attacking the rights of the innocent and calling for more and more oppression of the Muslims in Europe and America. They use this tragedy to reduce liberty and they forget that liberty is for all.
I understand the temptation. It is in times like this where the fight for liberty becomes difficult. It’s easy to oppress. It’s hard to love. But this world doesn’t need more hatred, more violence, more oppression. It needs liberty.
The fight for liberty is not for the weak-willed or cowardly. It is a long and difficult battle, one waged since the beginning of time. But it is one we shall continue to fight for all.
Part 2 will come later today or tomorrow