More Effs

More Effs

Last month, I walked into the temple and called out the Republican Sadducees. I toppled tables and scattered thousands of years of ill-gotten treasure. I called for a bottom-up revolt against ingrained patriarchy and traditional oppressive masculinity. Bordering on a lamentation, my essay may have been interpreted (especially among my more generally optimistic readers) as a dire representation of history in light of the present. For column-inch purposes, I edited out the obvious ironies inherent in Christian America’s normalization of the effers who’ve gamed the system in their own favor and in direct conflict with Jesus’s own abstention from the (physical, sexual) act of effing.

Let’s take on part 2 of that essay: a New Testament, if you will.

It’s Christmas, and whether your view of Jesus is as the son of God, a heroic prophet, a unifying myth, or a literary archetype, this is the season in which we celebrate his virgin birth and the eff-free life he exemplified for a few decades on Earth. Regardless of what mother-effing men and churches have done to twist and co-opt his story during the ensuing two millennia, when we read his words for ourselves and understand his purpose, we know that Jesus promised the greatest eff of all: Freedom.

In this light, no wonder Americans celebrate Jesus as more than a mere idea justifying revolution and undergirding the Constitution; we contextualize him as if he were a Founding Father: there at our own immaculate conception.

America’s Jesus crosses from the parochial to the public; this is no more clear than during this time of year. Especially when America’s bully pulpit has been abandoned and the spirit of freedom is under assault, we can look to other effs—friends and family with whom the spirit persists—as enduring bastions of American Jesus’s message. We can also look to a great historical eff: FDR.

In 1941, with America in the grips of depression and being pulled into another World War, FDR delivered his own Four effs to America, solidifying the convergence of American Speech and twentieth-century scripture. Following in the traditions of Washington and Lincoln and paving the way for other great communicators like Kennedy, Reagan, and Obama, Roosevelt proposed that Americans are endowed with Four Freedoms. Moreover, he insisted, America is responsible for spreading and protecting such freedoms beyond our borders: “everywhere in the world.”

“The freedom of speech and expression - everywhere in the world.” When we stand in the public square, uncomfortable—spreading discomfort—we assert freedom. The expression of ideas intersects with our inalienable identities and when these intersect with each others’, we are most free.

“The freedom of every person to worship God in his own way - everywhere in the world.” If we cannot honor our gods, we have handed over our souls and, as many believe, our eternities. Freedom of faith in a greater power underlies an optimism that reifies the remaining freedoms.

“The freedom from want. . . economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants - everywhere in the world.” We are only as rich as our poorest neighbors. The excesses of success are coupled with the responsibilities to care for our brothers and sisters—to protect them from schemes meant to hold them down.

“The freedom from fear. . . a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point. . . that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor - anywhere in the world.” The use of fear—terrorism—to wrest control over our autonomy—freedom—is the most insidious force of all. Demagogues who peddle in fearmongering seek to limit freedom. As Americans, we must resist this tendency, both in our own nation and around the world.

Those partisans whose proclivities decry this as “globalism”, and who simultaneously preach the universality of Jesus’s message, have failed in their understanding of what rights, freedoms, and—most importantly—salvation means. Their dissonance is more than cognitive, it is spiritual.

At this time of the year and at this time in history—when there is a dangerous movement to characterize aggressive press as an enemy of the people, to close borders, shrink markets and alienate others, to widen the chasm between the wealthiest and most vulnerable, and to sew instability around the globe—we are wise to remember that freedoms are our birthrights but that their protection is our responsibility. What we do for ourselves, in the spirit of giving that comes along with our calling as the nation meant to lead the world, we should do for others. We are called, by America’s Jesus, to embody hope in the face of the effers who would deny it: to worship from the temple of Freedoms for which our forebears died.

When we fail to protect these freedoms for ourselves, we fail our nation and our neighbors.
When we fail to protect these freedoms for our nation and our neighbors, we fail the world. 

Read Watermark online


Popular Posts