“They promise them freedom while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” – 2 Peter 2:19
What is freedom? As we think of it in the context of human rights the American Declaration of Independence states that humans are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That’s freedom, or as my dictionary succinctly states, freedom is “personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery.” So then, what is slavery? Slavery is a condition of being in bondage, subjected to another – the exact opposite of freedom.
In a recent op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal political columnist Peggy Noonan made an interesting observation about “the American dream”. “There is pervasive confusion about what the American dream is,” she wrote. “We seem to have redefined it to mean the acquisition of material things – a car, a house and a pool. That was not the meaning of the American dream a few generations ago” she continues. “The definition then was that in this wonderful place called America, you can start out from nothing and become anything. It was aspirational.”
Her opinion aside, Ms. Noonan has masterfully described the distinction between slavery and freedom. If the so called American dream can be distilled down to nothing more than materialism, that’s slavery pure and simple, a state of bondage, maybe not the kind of institutional slavery our country once shamefully allowed, but bondage nonetheless. But if we still have the opportunity to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as our Founding Fathers declared, we can continue to be aspirational toward becoming our best selves – and freedom still exists in America.
While I do agree that materialism has infiltrated our culture to an alarming degree, in my profession I get to work with aspiring people every day, so I know for a fact the “old” American dream still exists. May it remain so! Let us embrace freedom – real freedom – and not slavery to our possessions. Let us learn, grow and prosper, serving one another and God as we were created to do, encouraging our children to do the same.