On this holiday when we remember those who served and died, there are so many interesting things that get presented and portrayed in regards to our national storyline. Some of them are valiant and deep, others are pithy and cliched. There is one, however, that gets used pretty flippantly and after I hear it a dozen times or so, it starts to grate on me a little bit.

“Freedom isn’t free”. You see on T-shirts, bumper stickers and hear it is discussions about past wars. I get it. I see what is behind the saying.
No, freedom isn’t free – not in this world of selfish sin (on a small scale) and dominating Empire (on a big scale) but I think that it is important to make two clarifications about this saying.

Freedom is not solely the result of our military – and freedom is not all our military does.

  • The first one is important to clarify because in our Military Industrial Complex (Dwight Eisenhower warned of it and those who profit from it in his farewell speech), our the freedom that we enjoy is not bestowed  by military action. That is not the source of our freedoms.
  • The second one is important to clarify because freedom is not the only business that America’s foreign policy participates in. The US involvement in S. America, Asia, Africa and Europe is not simply explained as a ‘force for freedom’. There is a lot more going on than just a heart for global democracy.

I think this is appropriate to address on occasions like Memorial Day. It is not dishonoring to those who served and died to use our freedoms in order to call for accountability for America’s addiction to militarism or to examine America’s foreign policy.

In fact, seen from my point of view – it is downright honoring to utilize my freedom this way and it demonstrates an appreciation for the exact freedom that allows me to spend time on this day off to do so.

It seems more essential than ever in the current budget crisis.

Gareth Higgins said in his interview (Homebrewed  102) that looking at the budget and not accounting for the (untouchable) military expenditure is like being on weight watcher and not counting any of the points of an unhealthy breakfast and wondering why the program isn’t working.

It is one thing to say that our freedom comes at a price. No one is debating that. But to not count the cost and then wonder why we are flirting with bankruptcy is just foolishness disguised as patriotism.

On this Memorial Day, I am already dreading September 11th – the Ten year celebrations and the unquestioned, unchallenged national story.

What we need is theological examination of where freedom comes from and what is the real price.