Archive for Saturday, July 3, 2010

Faith forum: What is the meaning of the phrase ‘true freedom’?

July 3, 2010


The Rev. Kent Winters-Hazelton, senior pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway:

Every major religious tradition teaches that our true freedom lies in serving others. That wisdom is reflected in other arenas of life.

Speaking before Congress in January 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt stated his vision of the four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Roosevelt’s freedoms touch the heart of every person, whether they’re first-world or two-thirds world, in a life of privilege or a life without essentials, one who does what he wants or one who does what she can to survive. Inherent in Roosevelt’s words is the perspective of inclusion; ultimately the human race is tethered to one another, and working for the freedom for one in Africa, the Middle East or the inner city of America means working for freedom for all. Such an understanding of true freedom is sorely missing in the hue and cry we hear from contemporary patriots who cry out for the restoration of “their” freedom.

True freedom moves us toward the concern and embrace of the other. Reinhold Niebuhr said, “Love means being responsible — responsible to our family, toward our civilization and now by the presence of history, toward the universe of humanity.”

“The spirit of liberty,” wrote Judge Learned Hand, “is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women. It weighs their interests alongside of its own. ... The spirit of liberty is the spirit of him who, 2,000 years ago, taught humanity a lesson it has never learned but has never quite forgotten: that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.”

True freedom is not my freedom; it is ours.

— Send e-mail to Kent Winters-Hazelton at

Darrell Brazell, pastor, New Hope Fellowship, 1449 Kasold Drive:

On July 4, 1999, I preached my first sermon in Lawrence. I preached on Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.” The problem, however, was that I didn’t really understand freedom. I understood it intellectually but not experientially, because at that time, I was trapped in the bondage of my own addictions. I had tried to find freedom for many years, but no matter how hard I fought on my own, the noose just kept getting tighter.

In Jesus’ first sermon he also preached on freedom: “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18). It is sadly ironic that part of what kept me trapped in my bondage was my religious system, which fed my denial and my fear of anyone knowing my real struggles.

Thankfully, soon after my first sermon in Lawrence, Jesus showed me the freedom that comes from the transparency of being honest about my struggles.

“Freedom for the prisoners” became my reality. In the years since, he has continued to show me other new freedoms as well. He has shown me freedom from the bondage of living up to my perception of others’ expectations by showing me I am completely loved and accepted by him. He has released me from the bondage of a performance-based religious system and led me to the freedom of a relationship with him based on his work, not mine. He has shown me the freedom of genuine community where even the pastor can be the broken vessel that God uses.

On July 4, 2010, I will preach on freedom once again. It will be a very different sermon.

— E-mail Darrell Brazell at


cato_the_elder 7 years, 8 months ago

There is no reference whatsoever in the Constitution to "freedom from want" or "freedom from fear." Roosevelt received a great deal of deserved criticism at the time for saying this, as Norman Rockwell did afterward when he produced his Saturday Evening Post cover extolling the "Four Freedoms." Their critics were correct, but due to the rigors Americans had experienced during the Great Depression and were to experience during WW II, the "Four Freedoms" became ingrained in American myth - and most certainly, as Roosevelt had deliberately planned, gave rise to the "Great Society" mentality that has drained human initiative and mired generations of Americans in poverty.

FloridaSunshine 7 years, 8 months ago

To cato_the_elder...I'm completely confused. Neither pastor mentioned "freedom from want" or "freedom from fear" as being in the Constitution. Pastor Winters-Hazelton mentions that Roosevelt stated his vision of the four freedoms...but I don't see that it says anything regarding the Constitution. Am I missing something here? I certainly do agree that the "Great Society" mentality has drained our initiative and mired generations of Americans in poverty. However, it can be debated whether or not Roosevelt deliberately planned for this to happen. I do not believe that was Roosevelt's "plan" at all.

Pastor Brazell, I thoroughly enjoyed your comments. Yes, indeed, pastors can be the broken vessel God uses...this is often what spurs one on to become a pastor, having experienced the forgiving of one's sins and His great's almost impossible not to want to share the wonder of it all with the whole world. I find that even as a lay person. Often, people (even Christians) forget that pastors are people, too!

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