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In the U.S., we just celebrated the country’s 245th birthday on July 4th. This is one of my favorite holidays. It is so natural and easy to get caught up in the fireworks, barbecues, and family vacations during this time. In the last several years I have made it a point to take time apart from the celebration and vacation and ponder what July 4th really means for those of us living in this country. What exactly are we celebrating, and why?
Technically, this is the annual celebration of the signing of our Declaration of Independence. Our Continental Congress declared that the thirteen colonies were no longer subjects of the monarchy of Britain and King George III. The colonies were united, independent, and free. I think this last term “free” is the operative and fundamental principal underlying the celebrations for the 4th of July.
We have so many freedoms in the United States for which to be thankful. To name just a few, we have:
- Freedom to travel wherever we want;
- Freedom to choose our vocation and occupation;
- Freedom to marry whomever;
- Freedom to express our thoughts and ideas; and,
- Freedom of religion and to worship however we want; there are many more.
I often forget the import of these freedoms until I come across people who don’t have them. For example, Andrei, my friend and colleague from Russia, was explaining to me recently that even if you were lucky enough to afford a car, you still had to present credentials to go across certain city zones or to travel to another town.
Then there is my long-time friend, Sudarshan who is from India. He was born into the business caste. If he had stayed in India, he would not have been allowed to be a professor as he is now at the University of Missouri. He would have had to take a job that was aligned with his caste. Moreover, Sudarshan could not have married his wife Neeru because she was in a different caste. (Fortunately, inter-caste marriages in India are starting to become more common in the last decade, but they are still only about 10% of all marriages.[i])
In China, the only people who can publish criticisms of, or opinions contrary to those of, the Communist Party, are senior members of the Communist Party.[ii] We’ve certainly seen many episodes of reprisals on free speech as we watch the progressing communist takeover of Hong Kong. In contrast to these examples, I remain so thankful of the famous quote in the Declaration of Independence that says,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Yet the most important examples of what freedom means and what freedom looks like for people everywhere are the assurances that God has given us about our liberty. Let’s consider a few of them here:
Psalm 118:5 – “Out of distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.”
Isaiah 61:1 – “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.”
John 8:32 – “And you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
2Corinthians 3:17 – “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Galatians 5:13 – “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.”
These Godly proclamations tell me many things about freedom. First, it is my right and part of my DNA (I’m called to it). In other words, it is an instinctual desire. Second, I need to use freedom prudently and in service to others, not to bask in my own cravings and wishes. Instead, I should share the essence of freedom with others to help release them from their physical and/or psychological constraints. And third, I can find freedom whenever the Lord’s Spirit is upon me. This will loosen the chains of my stress, anxiety, frustrations and worries that often affect my attitude and behavior in everyday life. I can be free to be happy and content.
As Latina leaders, let’s take stock in the freedom that God has granted us as our right, not just a privilege. Let’s exemplify what it means to live a free life, as the Lord God has envisioned for us—a life of love, service, and healing of others. Let’s envelope our thoughts, our words, and our actions in God’s Freedom. Most notably, let’s give God praise, love and gratitude this month of July for granting us the most absolute, richest, and profound form of Freedom that can be experienced. Sparks are flying! Amen.
Becky Klein, MANSS, Esq. Attorney, Principal of Klein Energy, LLC. an energy consulting company based in Austin, Texas. She is a member of the CLLI faculty and a former CLLI board of director. Juris Doctor from St. Mary’s Law School, San Antonio, TX. Master of Arts in National Security Studies from Georgetown University, Bachelor of Arts in Human Biology from Stanford University, Stanford, CA.
[i] Dynamics of Inter-Religious and Inter-Caste Marriages in India, Kumudin Das, K. C. Das, T. K. Roy and P. K. Tripathy, 2011. Found at: https://paa2011.princeton.edu/papers/111281.
[ii] Congressional-Executive Commission on China, “Freedom of Expression in China: A Privilege, Not a Right,” by Senator Jeff Merkeley (Chair) and Representative James McGovern. Found at: https://www.cecc.gov/freedom-of-expression-in-china-a-privilege-not-a-right.