How do you evaluate life? What grid helps you to make sense of what you see, feel and experience?
Many things have a tension between form-structure and life-freedom. Too much structure and life is crushed, oppressed, and snuffed out. Too much freedom and chaos reigns, which also threatens life.
Law or morals represent form - social structure, and human rights represent freedom and the opportunity to pursue rewards. Rewards meaning that which grants us life and freedom from oppression or even death. However, too much freedom invites people to be addicted, selfish, and abusive. Too much form also invites people to abuse power, be critical, condemning, and oppressive. Martin Luther said the church can fall off either side of the horse. A wise person has the ability to define danger and yet love others, even when they pose a threat.
When I was in post graduate studies, I heard of a third-world story of a woman struggling to make a living. In the third-world country she lived in, the government often did not protect property rights and seized people’s land. A Christian ministry of attorneys, did work to allow the people to own their own land. Because of this ministry, this woman was able to purchase an acre and a half and then was able to grow enough flowers to support her family. The inability to create a structure that supports your life, is a struggle for many people in this world where freedom and human rights are oppressed. When there is no rule of law, often times rulers abuse their power and oppress others. This woman was able to gain a structure through law that protected her and gave her the freedom to own property, make a living, and get her basic needs met.
How do we live in a society where people can steal our life from us, whether that be from abuse of power like with George Floyd or the homeless stealing out of stores in Seattle? (Seattle is dying - documentary). How do we create a balance of form and freedom so life can flourish? Too much freedom allows tyrants whether criminals or people in power to be unjust or sinful towards others. Too much form stifles change and often keeps systemic evil in place. Rigid self-centeredness creates structures that deny others needs and oppress them rather than creating a system where all can flourish. Depravity is often denied in a postmodern world where everyone’s opinion is valid, but the elite attempt to rule. For example, in the South after the civil war slavery was replaced by sharecropping, which kept ex-slaves in debt and tied to a rigid system that denied them basic human rights, education, financial freedom, and personal development. Change was slow to come about, but oppression and freedom motivated many to leave the South for better lives in the North and the West. (The Warmth of other Suns the epic story of America’s great migration)
What grants us a balance between form and freedom? The founders understood this tension and believed they could create a social structure that facilitated this balance, but they could not do it alone. They believed that a republic could only function when its people were self- governed or had developed self-control. (If You Can Keep It) They believed this was only possible when virtue was developed and believed this was dependent on religion. Why? Because faith says that everyone is accountable to a moral God, not just themselves. Psychologists and sociologists would say that family and culture play an important role in developing a person of good character today. Structure alone cannot govern behavior, like governmental laws and policies. What shapes identity and character is multi-faceted, family, education, cultural context, religion these are the arms and legs or bones of those social structures.
Dependency on external controls like policies and rules initiated by government may over emphasize external control. Internal control from being a person who has developed character and self-control is the counter balance for external control. Externals usually have to do with others providing control, safety and benefit and internals have to do with the individual taking responsibility for self -control, safety and benefits.
The area I have studied the most lately is economic injustices. There are still institutions that prey on the vulnerable with lending at interest rates as high as 204% in our state. These are systemic injustices. We eliminated payday loans in our state which were charging interest rates of 390%. I believe that government policies should limit the interest rate and protect people from oppression. I also believe that the church and families should do interest free loans while teaching people how to manage money, self-governance. I also believe that the poor can often take personal responsibility for budgeting , debt reduction, and wealth development in their own lives through commitments to grow, learning, resources, and self- governing. So, a heart change and character development can make a difference because a person can always spend more than they make. I have many stories of people who have changed from being deeply in debt to having personal financial freedom and wealth, through learning and applying debt reduction and wealth development. They need a passionate vision to motivate them to gain new life and the determination to follow through with their vision .
Years ago, I ran a group with 20 single moms in it, all of which did not make more than a $1000 a month. One mother shared with me that she had saved $15000. I asked her how that could be? She was extremely frugal and resourceful and told me in no uncertain terms how she saved this money.
She was full of life and had structure with character traits like self- discipline. She was creative and resourceful. She had the freedom to make changes in her life and was very persevering. This woman expanded her universe by taking initiative, risk, and finding resources. She had passion and structure and was an amazing woman who had gained financial freedom with little income.
People need healthy structures that help provide for life, but as the founders of our country believed these have to be created and maintained for life to thrive. These are both based on healthy character and healthy social systems for life to do well. Life is not just about fighting systemic evil, but about dealing with our own evil so we grow and can trade good for evil.
I have a Fractured Fairy Tale and Bible Study on Form and Freedom. To view it go to http://www.community-renewal.com/form-and-freedom.html.