Freedom is a bit of a tricky subject. Here in the United States, we have a 240-year history of celebrating on July 4 our independence from Britain, but not everyone has felt included in that freedom. An African American artist friend of mine was asked to create a visual to be used as a poster for the centennial of the Statue of Liberty, one of our symbols of freedom. Juxtaposed against the statue, she placed a teary-eyed young black man, clearly disappointed that he hadn’t experienced the full promise of freedom. The committee reviewing the submission rejected her artwork because it didn’t represent its ideal of freedom, and yet I have always been deeply moved by the piece. It elicits a desire to gain a more inclusive view of liberty.
This desire prompts me to turn to the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, who founded The Christian Science Monitor. Over the course of her life, she witnessed slavery, was deprived of contact with her only child because she was an infirm widow with no means of support, suffered years of debilitating sickness, and for a time was homeless. But through her study of the Bible and her life experiences, she gained a higher, purer concept of freedom that is more inclusive and not subject to the vagaries of the human experience. Through practicing what Jesus taught, she discovered that slavery went beyond even what someone imposed upon another. As Mrs. Eddy wrote in her textbook on Christian Science, “The illusion of material sense, not divine law, has bound you, entangled your free limbs, crippled your capacities, enfeebled your body, and defaced the tablet of your being” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 227). As she learned that the material senses are the ultimate source of bondage, it became clear to her that gaining dominion over the physical senses and over one’s limited thinking reveals innate freedom. We achieve such dominion by knowing more about the nature of God, the divine Mind, and its expression.
Recognizing that one has a heritage of freedom is not just some kind of Pollyanna thinking. It’s based on a higher concept – the acknowledgment that the only truly universal freedom derives from God, divine Mind, the source of all good. Because this Mind is infinite, freedom can take root in everyone’s consciousness, and good can be seen as a boundless and universal right. Mrs. Eddy observed: “The enslavement of man is not legitimate. It will cease when man enters into his heritage of freedom, his God-given dominion over the material senses. Mortals will some day assert their freedom in the name of Almighty God” (Science and Health, p. 228). She saw enslavement – whether political, social, financial, physical, and emotional – as illegitimate, and liberty as a divine right. Asserting our freedom in the name of God subjugates the material sense of things, which is always limited and divisive. The picture drawn by the physical senses is divisive because it separates people according to race, gender, and age, and then sets up a hierarchy of superiority that has the effect of aggrandizing some while suppressing others. All too often, we look at things from a limited standpoint, drinking in the view of the physical senses. This has been the case throughout human history.
Conversely, God, who is Spirit, has given you and me dominion over the material senses and, therefore, over the circumstances that seem to cripple our lives. In the New International Version of the Bible, Peter, a disciple of Christ Jesus, reminds us, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism” (Acts 10:34). God has not established a hierarchy of deserving, so it has no legitimacy and cannot stand. Asserting our freedom begins with seeing that the infinite benevolence of God, good, is universal and therefore available to everyone. Every day can be our independence day as we cast aside the shackles of limitation and take on our heritage of freedom. And as we accept this higher concept of freedom, we can expect to see that the tears of many will be tenderly dried.