Freedom as Community

Happy Moltmann Monday!  Some thoughts on freedom, love, and community for you:

The truth of freedom is love. It is only in love that human freedom arrives at its truth. I am free and feel myself to be truly free when I am respected and recognized by others and when I for my part respect and recognize them. I become truly free when I open my life for other people and share with them, and when other people open their lives for me and share them with me. Then the other person is no longer the limitation of my freedom; he is an expansion of it…

‘Divide and rule’ is the old, familiar method of domination. As long as freedom means lordship, everything has to be separated, isolated, detached and distinguished, so that it can be dominated. But if freedom means community, fellowship, then we experience the uniting of everything that has hitherto been separated. The alienation of person from person, the division between human society and nature, the dichotomy between soul and body, and, finally, religious anxiety are abolished; liberation is experienced when people are again one: one with each other, one with nature, and one with God. Freedom as community is therefore a movement that counters the history of power and class struggles, in which freedom could only be viewed in terms of lordship.

Freedom as lordship destroys community. As lordship, freedom is a lie. The truth of human freedom lies in the love that breaks down barriers. It leads to unhindered, open communities in solidarity. It is only this freedom that can heal the wounds which freedom as lordship has inflicted, and still inflicts today.

-The Trinity and the Kingdom, p.216

The older I get, the more amazed I become at how adept we are as humans at creating barriers.  We can do this with such great subtlety and complexity that it boggles the mind.  Last night a Journeyer and I were talking about the crazy idea of God loving all of us, even the terrible ones of us, even US when we are terrible, and we had to sigh a moment and shake our heads, exhausted at the very idea of attempting a love like that.  Love that breaks down barriers is hard work, and we know it.  Dear God, we know it.  But as Moltmann says so well, the truth of human freedom lies there- hidden right in there, waiting for us like an unwrapped present behind those barriers we’ve worked so hard to construct.  You know what else is hard?  Trying to be part of/create/encourage/pastor an unhindered, open community in solidarity with our world.  Dear God, that’s hard, too.  The upside, however, is that if we believe this crazy love of God to be true, the effort is absolutely worth it.  Our freedom’s in there, and everyone else’s, too, waiting to counter the history of power struggle and heal the wounds created by a false freedom predicated on lordship.  The truth of freedom is love.  Always has been, always will be.


  1. Good stuff! I agree with you that the breaking down of humanly created barriers (whether they be the larger issues of race and socioeconomic status or the smaller social cliques of schools, organizations, and even local churches) is insanely difficult. So much so that I don’t know that we are able to allow love to translate us from being completely closed to completely open in one fell swoop.

    I see two stages in this: love cultivating authenticity, and love cultivating transparency. Authenticity being the dropping of the walls and the facades that we create around ourselves relationally. Transparency being the ability to let people see the very deepest parts of your being. I know in my case there is a circle of people with whom I’m authentic; there is a far smaller group with whom I’m transparency, and that group of people consists of those with whom a lot of time has been invested.

    I guess for me the question would be from a Moltmann perspective, how do we love people to authenticity first then move deeper into transparency?

  2. Tim, I wonder if it’s possible for us to achieve transparency with more than a few people, at least on a consistent basis. I think there are moments we have when we see deep into someone else’s being- and those moments are really transformative and powerful, and maybe they are enough. So maybe our task is not to make our relationships all transparent, but to create environments where transparency can happen sometimes, and transform us, and remind us that we are much more than meets the eye.

  3. Danielle,

    I’d agree with that. I do think though that the walls that our culture has caused us to put up have limited us not just from being transparent with a few people, but to be transparent period. I am concerned that Americans have gotten so used to having to put up walls and facades that as a culture we have co-opted those false images as the real. Much like an actor could be so deeply immersed in a character that they can’t break out.

    When we get to that state, it’s nearly impossible to be authentic, much less transparent.

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