Liberty for me but not for thee. If you listen hard enough you can hear that refrain echoed down through the centuries as the strong have sought to maintain a certain lifestyle at the expense of the weak. The strong always claiming a libertarian stance to protect an idea or a practice that has economic or social benefit for them.
You can hear the refrain of liberty for me but not for thee in the history of slavery in America. You can hear it in the eugenics movement of the early 20th century. You can hear it in the racism of the Jim Crow era. You can hear it on the steps of the Supreme Court when a panel of judges decided that the liberty of the strong was more important than the liberty of the defenseless in 1973.
Perhaps the most damning thing about selective liberty is how easily it becomes a cloak that our culture can use to hide any number of insidious and evil things. I’m thinking of abortion in particular. Because we can couch it in terms like “rights” or “liberty” or “healthcare” or “legal” or “fairness” or “convenience,” selective liberty has persisted for over four decades. Four decades of the strong deciding the fate of the weak in the name of liberty.
The interesting thing about liberty is that it is always selective. There can never be total personal liberty in a society because the result would be anarchy. So, historically, Americans have created laws to curb personal liberty and to protect the weak in what has been a continual give and take between our branches of government and the desires of the populace.
Thankfully, the culture came to see things like slavery, eugenics, and Jim Crow laws for what they were: evil. Evil because they deprived people of liberty and dignity. From a theological perspective, evil because they let one image bearer of God claim a god-like position over another image bearer and thus turned liberty into a God-replacement, an idol.
Today we have taken two idols – selective liberty and erotic liberty – and combined them into one idol that bears a horrific resemblance to Molech (Leviticus 18:21, 2 Chronicles 28:3). We’d like to think we’ve come a long ways since the days when parents would burn their children in an effort to curry the favor of some metal or stone object, but have we really? Today, instead of fire we use medical instruments to cut, rip, and dismember. Instead of a temple lit by torches and fire and populated by false priests we have steril clinics populated by people all too eager to accept the human sacrifice and the credit card number that comes with it. Instead of a bearded man in a robe crying out for the screaming bodies of infants in order to bring victory in warfare or rain on the crops we have politicians in expensive suits adding to the pile of bodies as they make sacrifices on the altar of personal and erotic liberty. Instead of a priest encouraging and celebrating as a child is reduced to ashes we have healthcare professionals celebrating the extra jingle in their pockets when they can reduce the right infant down to just the right parts to sell for the benefit of the strong.
So we’ve taken that warm and comfortable cloak of selective liberty and erotic liberty and tossed it over the demonic face of that ancient demon, Molech. As long as we can continue to couch our child sacrifice in the terms of liberty and as long as the culture refuses to pull that cloak down to reveal the Satanic forces at work behind it, we’ll not just continue in our barbarism but we’ll continue to celebrate it. Because that’s what Americans do. We celebrate liberty. Unless it’s inconvenient for us.