Darrow Miller and Friends

The Necessary Constraints of True Liberty

Bob Osburn writes on libertyFreedom, like grace, doesn’t come cheaply. Nor is it maintained without appropriate limits.

Our friend, Bob Osburn, Executive Director at Wilberforce Academy, has written lucidly about this and we are happy to share his insights here.

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Liberty Asterisked

When asked what they like best about the USA, international students invariably answer: “Freedom!”   Over a delightful lunch recently, one of my international mentees volunteered that during his year here he felt free of his government’s prying eyes.

There is something delightfully open and inviting about the USA, especially when you are young and eager to explore, discover, and take risks.

But, what most international students don’t know is that the liberty they so love, till the past half century, came with constraints, limits, and conventions. It is emphatically not the wild, riotous, “Don’t tell me what to do!” version that emerged in the 60s.  In other words, when we talk about freedom and liberty, we need to add an asterisk (*).

Real freedom is not unbounded, but whether you believe that or not has everything to do with your anthropology, that is, your view of the human being.  Is liberty, as Supreme Court Justice Kennedy has announced in several of his court decisions, “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life?”   In one sense, the answer is “yes,” if we mean that the human conscience should not be coerced.  But, do we humans really have the power to define such monumental realities?  Kennedy seems to be suggesting that we have Promethean abilities to craft the Universe in our image, in our likeness.  Can we actually bend reality to fit our individual wills?  A lot of college students want to think so.

Go here to read the rest of Bob’s post.


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Bob Osburn was an adjunct lecturer for seven years in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development the University of Minnesota. He has spent 32 years serving in international student and academic ministry at the University of Minnesota, and successfully launched the 1998 World View for World Healing Conference that challenged international students to engage the deepest needs of their societies on the basis of a Christian worldview. He has been married to Susan for 42 years, and is the father of four sons.