While I was in China a couple of things happened that really made me think a lot on freedom and what it means. I was unable to use facebook or blogger while there. I was able to use wordpress until the beginning of November at which point the government blocked it. My teacher (from America) told me that he was pretty sure it was blocked around the same time someone was arrested for speaking out against the government in an effort to control the person (or people...I don't know any details) from saying things they didn't want others to hear. Another thing that happened was that in one of the cities on our final journey home I was in a Starbucks checking my email at the counter when a young Chinese man came up and sat next to me and started chatting with me and eventually asked me if I was a christian. I told him I was and asked if he was too and he replied "yes." He then told me how he was trying to witness to others by tutoring them in English and giving them Bible verses to read. He talked very openly to me in front of the store employees and one of my classmates. I felt very shy, not just because he was a stranger but because of what we were talking about. To be honest I haven't had a lot of opportunities to talk to others about my faith and the idea of sharing my faith frightens me although I really want to share the gospel with others. So I was very impressed, encouraged and convicted by this young man and his willingness to talk publicly about something that could get him in trouble (as I said, evangelizing is illegal in China).
I live in a country where I have freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Men and women have died to protect these rights for me but I don't use them very much and the reason why I don't is simply because I'm afraid. I'm afraid I'll say something wrong or turn people away and lose a chance to say what I truly believe or that I will misrepresent what I believe. I'm afraid that people won't even listen at all and will label me as ignorant or closed-minded if I disagree with them politically, socially and morally. Sometimes in the case of petty things (like tastes in music or movies or clothing, etc) I'm afraid I'll hurt someone's feelings or that others will make fun of me for liking what I like or having my own opinions. So basically I allow fear to take away my freedoms. However there are people in countries who don't have those freedoms but take them anyway and sometimes face severe consequences for it. Their conviction is so strong and they stand so firmly in what they believe that they are willing to pay a price to voice their beliefs.
Understanding this has led me to these conclusions:
- Even though I am legally allowed to say or do whatever I want (within the limits of the law of course) I make the choice whether or not to use the freedoms my government gives me. I am as free as I allow myself to be.
- Fear can be a dictator. I have let it control me many times.
- Having the "freedom" to do or say what we want or believe does not mean we will not pay a consequence for exercising that liberty. We may lose the good opinions of others, friends, jobs, etc. Freedom to say or act does not remove consequence.
- Remaining silent has consequences too.