It wasn’t until my firstborn child came into the world that I realized being a parent requires a level of self-sacrifice. When I first found out my wife was pregnant, it took me a long time to realize that I could no longer live as though I was single. My chances at spending money frivolously and going out on a whim became drastically limited in order to be fully present as a husband and a father. For this reason, as much as I cherish the amount of freedom I have here in North America, I realized my life is not entirely my own and that certain freedoms don’t come without a cost.
One of the most heated political issues of this day is the issue of bodily autonomy, especially when it comes to women’s rights regarding abortion. In 2019, Miley Cyrus released a song titled ‘Mother’s Daughter’ in which the chorus kicks off with the phrase, “Don’t f**k with my freedom!” It was considered an anthem among certain advocates for women’s rights, and some critics would consider it to be a response to pro-life activists whom they believe are out to suppress their right to control their bodies in regards to sex and reproduction. Though in light of the lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some have taken to social media and to the streets to protest against social and economic restrictions. Since many of these protesters appeared to be on the opposite side of the political spectrum, some have been seen holding signs saying, “My body, my choice,” as a way of sticking it back to leftist advocates of abortion rights.
So here, we have the left shouting for the government to stay out of their bedrooms and their hoo-hahs. On the right, we have people vocalizing their opposition to mandatory facial masks in public and that their rights are being taken away to go out and continue on with their normal routines without considering the dangers of how they could unknowingly be carrying the virus.
Considering both scenarios, it makes me wonder, what exactly is ‘freedom’ and at what point does it become excessive? One could argue that freedom in and of itself is an illusion. Regardless of where anyone stands on the political spectrum, there always seems to be a demand for a right and an assertion of control of some form. Most people in modern society want the right to sexual pleasure with whoever they want without the inconvenience of pregnancy or STIs. Many others want the right to worship whatever deity they want to without the inconvenience of someone telling them they can’t practice their chosen faith or their religion may be evil or false. I think it comes without saying that everybody wants control over their own lives and their own bodies, but many would go a step further as to imply that others forego their own privileges or ‘rights’ in order to keep their own.
One could argue that freedom has become a form of idolatry. After all, there is really a powerful sentiment behind the phrase, “My body, my choice!”
I often hear the phrase that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Usually when the rights of one group are granted, the rights of another are compromised. In the case of the abortion debate, the rights of the woman’s full bodily autonomy is granted at the expense of the autonomy of the unborn person (even in circumstances where the mother’s life is not in danger). For those who are protesting the current measures against COVID-19, the push to maintain a sense of normalcy that once was can come at the expense of spreading a seemingly benign infection to those who are immunocompromised — increasing the risk of death on a collective scale.
No matter what it may be, I think we are all slaves to something. For some it may be addictions to things like alcohol, drugs or sex. Others may be driven by money, materialism, personal security or debilitating fear. Sometimes the root of these tendencies is to be a slave to one’s own primal urges. The opposite would involve being enslaved by a sense of duty based out of selfless love. In the case of Christianity, if such a God of perfect mercy and love exists, it is better to be mastered by something or someone that is morally superior to ourselves.
“Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” — Romans 6:16 RSV
Even when it comes to Christians who believe salvation is a free gift to those who believe that Jesus died for our sins, the cost requires a complete overhaul of our own habits and full cooperation with the grace of a higher authority outside of ourselves. It literally involves making ourselves out to be living sacrifices.
“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” — Romans 12:1-2 RSV
Like someone who rejects abortion and chooses to rise above their circumstances to raise their child, sacrifices ought to be made on an individual basis in order that the physical and mental well-being of the general population is valued and protected from the current pandemic, though that would involve an act of the will in cooperation with divine grace. A fair conclusion to be drawn is that it all comes down to one thing — human beings are selfish, and personal sacrifice is a quality that both the left and the right fall utterly short on.