Freedom in the 21st Century

Living in the United States means that the 4th of July rings out with fireworks that light up the night sky. Hamburgers and hot dogs are the food of the day. Grills sizzle. Everywhere freedom is being celebrated—but who truly experiences freedom?

Recently, the world’s population has not been thinking about freedom the same way they have in decades past. According to Freedom House, individual freedom has been on the decline for the past sixteen years. 1

In the latest report, seventy-three countries have seen a decline in personal freedom. Countries that seemed ripe for democratic freedom became less free, and the list of nations receiving the “Not Free” rating reached its highest level yet, numbering fifty-four. 2

In the past ten years, America has lost eleven points, making it part of the twenty-five countries that suffered the biggest declines. The authors comment that “democracy is in decline because its most prominent exemplars (including the United States) are not doing enough to protect it.” 3

What are we to make of these comments?

A previous Summit Ministries article writer Chuck Edwards suggests, “[In a] casual look at Freedom House’s own ‘Map of Freedom,’ which highlights the world’s freest nations, one is struck by the interesting link between freedom and worldview. The nations that have the highest regard for basic human rights and the rule of law are those countries that have come under the influence of Christianity.” 4 Worldview matters tremendously. Ideas do not only affect individuals but can cause shifts in world events.

The data is clear, nations that hold to Christian ideas also tend to have democratic liberty. The more that ideas shift away from biblical principles, the less democratically free nations become. Take India for example. Sixteen years ago, the effects of Hindu beliefs had not yet begun to affect the way the nation operated, they were classified as “Free.” Democratic freedom was part of India’s foundation in the nineteenth century under British rule, before Britain became a post-Christian nation. Although Great Brittan was wrought with ethical issues it strongly supported human dignity and the value of human life. As time went on, Hindu influence led to apathy towards human life, dignity, and value for individual liberty.

Today, India is no longer classified as a “Free” state. Having lost four points off the “Map of Freedom 2021” it is now classified as a “Partly Free” state. The violence and religious discrimination in 2020 were the primary causes of this loss. Beneath the surface, ideas were driving actions. The violence and discrimination are a direct result of the idea that human life is not inherently valuable. Freedom House authors say, “India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader, elevating narrow Hindu nationalist interests at the expense of its founding values of inclusion and equal rights for all.” 5

The idea behind Hinduism and other New Spiritualist beliefs is that we must transcend past all the desires and cares of this world to achieve ultimate peace. Taken too far, this idea can lead to the ruthless eradication of ideas and people who stand in the way of “ultimate peace.” 6

We must be careful regarding the ideas we hold about human value, the nature of the world, and how we interact with it. False worldviews lead to hurt and too often, death. We should be grateful for “law tradition grounded in, as Jefferson so eloquently phrased it, ‘the laws of Nature and Nature’s God.’ The Declaration of Independence not only expressed this nation’s independence from the dominating rule of the King of England, but also declared its dependence on God-given ‘rights’—specifically enumerated as ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’—rare freedoms in the history of human government.” 7

As worldview analysis shows and the “Map of Freedom 2021” alludes to, freedom is not based on the actions (fruits) of the government, it is a result of the worldview (roots) of the government. As Christians, our savior is not the United States government or any other government, it is Jesus Christ. What he says about freedom and liberty in the pages of the gospels is what makes us truly free, not democratic freedom. And as long as American law and politics are underpinned by biblical Christian ideas and truth we may continue to enjoy democratic freedom as we know it. For any nation to experience even a slight taste of the freedom the Bible offers to believers, it must “draw from the root of God’s divine design as outlined in the Bible…as the Declaration of Independence puts it, these truths are ‘self-evident,’ a new experiment in liberty can be planted and another country [which can] move from being ‘not free’ to ‘free.’” 8

At any cultural moment, a taste of freedom is available for us to pursue as a nation. However, limitless freedom is offered through salvation which comes from Jesus Christ. This freedom can never be taken away; it points us to the eternal Kingdom of Heaven where peace will have no end.

This article is an adapted version of a 2004 Summit Ministries resource written by Chuck Edwards.