I was thinking about this a lot during the election, as I tried to mentally sift the different parties into their fundamental ideals. There being so little harmony between parties, it seemed like a helpful exercise. Why is it that we are so divided? What values are so conflicting that they can create such dissension?
Recent events have brought the two to mind again. I'm not going to give any space here to the massacre at Sandy Hook, because enough has been said and enough can never be said, and that's the way it is with tragedy. I am not ready to attempt to do justice to it.
So, moving slightly through that, I was struck by how quickly people responded to the horror with a call to metaphorical arms against...well, arms. I suppose they would have claimed that there's no better time to discuss gun control than after a violent shooting. I would claim the opposite. Dear people, your politics are in bad taste. And no matter how personal the issue, it's still politics.
But this is not a post about gun control. It's about the choice between freedom and safety. I suspect that choice is at the heart of most political conversation. Do we choose more freedom even though it will put the weak at risk? Or do we choose to protect ourselves and others even if it means sacrificing our freedom? Back in the day, the political theorists who fashioned the building blocks of this country felt that freedom within and safety from without was the best policy. This is an almost ridiculous summary, of course, but it's still pretty accurate.
I bring this up not because I'm feeling political, but because I think this has something to do with us as human beings, at our core. We want to be free! We fear for ourselves! And our attempts to deal with both of these urges are at the heart of our political structures, our personal ideals, our sins and our salvation.
The two will be at odds until the Kingdom of God is realized on earth, or within us. Perhaps that is part of what it means to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" - the reconciliation of the freedom found in our identity as children of God and the safety that is realized in trusting in his providence.