Reflections on liberty of thought and action: themes for Independence Day weekend.

Peace is liberty in tranquility. — Marcus Tullius Cicero

Real change in the world will only come from a change of heart. — Dalai Lama

A hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people. — Maya Angelou

Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change. — Stephen Covey

Did I offer peace today?
Did I bring a smile to someone’s face?
Did I say words of healing?
Did I let go of my anger and resentment?
Did I forgive?
Did I love?
These are the real questions.
I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now
will bear many fruits,
here in this world and the life to come.
— Henri Nouwen


Song about freedom:

Questions to consider:

  • Whom do you know who feels that they don’t have equal access to opportunities and basic rights? Shelter? Food? Water? Education? Voting? Employment? Religion? Speech? Thought? Press and media? Love?
  • What is the difference between rights and privileges?
  • How do we balance individual freedoms and societal/constitutional freedoms?

Freedom of Action

There are two good things in life – freedom of thought and freedom of action. — W. Somerset Maugham

As individuals we can influence our own families. Our families can influence our communities and our communities can influence our nations. — Dalai Lama

Well, one works at it, certainly. Being free is as difficult and as perpetual — or rather fighting for one’s freedom, struggling towards being free, is like struggling to be a poet or a good Christian or a good jew or a good Moslem or a good Zen Buddhist. You work all day long and achieve some kind of level of success by nightfall, go to sleep and wake up in the next morning with the job still to be done. So you start all over again. — Maya Angelou

To be blessed with visions is not enough…we must live them! — High Eagle

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. — Martin Luther King Jr

Without freedom, creativity cannot flourish. The right to freedom is crucial to progress in any society; and the context is having a sense of global responsibility. — Dalai Lama

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. — Abraham Lincoln

There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires. — Nelson Mandela

Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom. — Dalai Lama

I believe in Liberty for all men: the space to stretch their arms and their souls, the right to breathe and the right to vote, the freedom to choose their friends, enjoy the sunshine, and ride on the railroads, uncursed by color; thinking, dreaming, working as they will in a kingdom of beauty and love. — W. E. B. Du Bois

You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom. — Malcolm X

You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are. — Fred Rodgers

Our present idea of freedom is only the freedom to do as we please: to sell ourselves for a high salary, a home in the suburbs, and idle weekends. But that is a freedom dependent upon affluence, which is in turn dependent upon the rapid consumption of exhaustible supplies. The other kind of freedom is the freedom to take care of ourselves and of each other … the freedom of community life. — Wendell Berry

… it is not enough to love the earth, though that is a crucial first step. We also have to act on its behalf. — Ken Stone

I speak not for myself but for those without voice… those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated. — Malala Yousafzai

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same. — Ronald Reagan

Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation. — Coretta Scott King

The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom. — John Locke

Freedom of Thought & Speech

… surely we should at least attempt to put forward constructive ideas. One thing is for certain: given human beings’ love of truth, justice, peace, and freedom, creating a better, more compassionate world is a genuine possibility. The potential is there. — Dalai Lama

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds! — Bob Marley

The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free. Slowly, I was discovering myself. ― Ta-Nehisi Coates 

Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech; which is the right of every man as far as by it he does not hurt or control the right of another; and this is the only check it ought to suffer and the only bounds it ought to know.  — Benjamin Franklin
Discipline, I have learned, leads to freedom, and there is meaning in freedom. — Anne Lamott

Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be. —Wayne W. Dyer

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind. — Virginia Woolf

One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying. — Jeanne d’Arc

Nobody can bring you peace but yourself. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Success isn’t measured by money or power or social rank. Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace. — Mike Ditka

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. — Soren Kierkegaard

Freedom of Religion

You can’t pick and choose which types of freedom you want to defend. You must defend all of it or be against all of it. ― Scott Howard Phillips 

There is a difference between exercising religious beliefs and imposing them on others. Our Constitution fiercely protects the former and expressly prohibits the latter. ― Joseph Kennedy III 

The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. ― James Madison

Religion is like a pair of shoes … Find one that fits for you, but don’t make me wear your shoes. ― George Carlin 

Ever since the Enlightenment era in the 17th and 18th Centuries—which, among other things, gave birth to the U.S. Constitution and the de facto motto E Pluribus Unum (out of the many, one)—interfaith tolerance has been sown into the fabric of Western society. The rules of one religion are not made into law for all citizens because of a simple social agreement. For you to believe what you want, you must allow me to do the same, even if we disagree. ― Gudjon Bergmann

… Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason … my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen. ― Martin Luther

Love as a revolutionary act: faith and Pride

What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains. — Tennessee Williams

Please remember, especially in these times of group-think and the right-on chorus, that no person is your friend (or kin) who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow and be perceived as fully blossomed as you were intended. – Alice Walker

You look ridiculous if you dance,
You looks ridiculous if you don’t dance,
So you might as well dance.
— Gertrude Stein

Closer to Fine (excerpt) — Indigo Girls
I’m tryin’ to tell you somethin’ ’bout my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
And the best thing you’ve ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
It’s only life after all, yeahWell darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable
And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety ’til I sank it
I’m crawling on your shores
… I went to the doctor, I went to the mountainsI looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
We go to the doctor, we go to the mountains
We look to the children, we drink from the fountain
Yeah, we go to the Bible, we go through the work out
We read up on revival, we stand up for the lookout
There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine, yeah 


Some songs to celebrate Pride Month:

Questions to consider:

  • Who has helped you understand LGBTQ experience on a more personal level? Who has humanized this social justice issue for you, if it wasn’t already a human experience with which you are familiar or connected?
  • What view or belief are you glad to have overcome or changed? What learning has helped you the most? What learning do you still need or want to do?
  • What does it mean that all people are created in the image and likeness of God?

Love as a Revolutionary Act: Love of Self, Love for Others, The Right to Love Whom You Choose

Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up, and start to fight. — Harvey Milk

Love, in the New Testament, is not something you feel; it is something you do … Love seeks the well-being of others and is embodied in concrete efforts in their behalf. — Francis Taylor Gench

The beauty of standing up for your rights is others see you standing and stand up as well. — Cassandra Duffy

You never completely have your rights, one person, until you all have your rights. — Marsha P. Johnson

All of us who are openly gay are living and writing the history of our movement. We are no more — and no less — heroic than the suffragists and abolitionists of the 19th century; and the labor organizers, Freedom Riders, Stonewall demonstrators, and environmentalists of the 20th century. — Tammy Baldwin

This community has fought and continues to fight a war of acceptance, a war of tolerance and the most relentless bravery. You are the definition of courage, do you know that? — Lady Gaga

I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. — Janet Mock

Being born gay, black and female is not a revolutionary act. Being proud to be a gay, black female is. — Lena Waithe

Our society needs to recognize the unstoppable momentum toward unequivocal civil equality for every gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizen of this country. — Zachary Quinto

Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law. — Boethius

Every single courageous act of coming out chips away at the curse of homophobia. Most importantly it’s destroyed within yourself, and that one act creates the potential for its destruction where it exists in friends, family and society. — Anthony Venn-Brown

Surviving and Thriving

We are powerful because we have survived. — Audre Lorde

Every gay and lesbian person who has been lucky enough to survive the turmoil of growing up is a survivor. Survivors always have an obligation to those who will face the same challenges. — Bob Paris

I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance, and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, “Me, too.’“ — Jason Collins

I want to make sure that any young person or anyone really who is looking up to me—who sees a glimpse of who I am as a person—that they see no shame, that they see pride, and that I’m truly unabashed about the person that I am. — Samira Wiley

It is better to live one day on this planet being true to yourself than an entire lifetime which is a lie. —Anthony Venn-Brown

Beauty in Diversity

We should indeed keep calm in the face of difference, and live our lives in a state of inclusion and wonder at the diversity of humanity. — George Takei

What I preach is: People fall in love with people, not gender, not looks, not whatever. What I’m in love with exists on almost a spiritual level. — Miley Cyrus

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences. — Audre Lord

When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free. — Former U.S. President, Barack Obama

I was not ladylike, nor was I manly. I was something else altogether. There were so many different ways to be beautiful. — Michael Cunningham

True hospitality is marked by an open response to the dignity of each and every person. Henri Nouwen has described it as receiving the stranger on his own terms, and asserts that it can be offered only by those who ‘have found the center of their lives in their own hearts.’ — Kathleen Norris

Beyond Fear & Shame: Embracing & Celebrating 

Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start. — Jason Collins

To be afraid is to behave as if the truth were not true. — Bayard Rustin

We deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame, and without compromise. —Ellen Page

I’ve never been interested in being invisible and erased. — Laverne Cox

I learned compassion from being discriminated against. Everything bad that’s ever happened to me has taught me compassion. — Ellen DeGeneres

I’ve been embraced by a new community. That’s what happens when you’re finally honest about who you are; you find others like you. — Chaz Bono

I am a strong, black, lesbian woman. Every single time I say it, I feel so much better. — Brittney Griner

We have to do it because we can no longer stay invisible. We have to be visible. We should not be ashamed of who we are. — Sylvia Rivera

I’m living by example by continuing on with my career and having a full, rich life, and I am incidentally gay. — Portia de Rossi

All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential. — Harvey Milk

I’m a young, bisexual woman, and I’ve spent a large part of my life trying to validate myself — to my friends, to my family, to myself — trying to prove that who I love and how I feel is not a phase. — Halsey

You have to go the way your blood beats. If you don’t live the only life you have, you won’t live some other life, you won’t live any life at all. — James Baldwin

I am always amazed how powerful that three letter word ‘gay’ can be. Many of us rejected it and wouldn’t even let the word come out of our mouth because of all the negative connotations attached to it…sin…. promiscuity….a ‘lifestyle’ etc etc. We would definitely never ever use it to label ourselves. We didn’t want to own it. When we break free and we use the word with empowerment, ownership and pride…..then we have moved from a world of denial to finally being real. — Anthony Venn-Brown 
 

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself. — Harvey Fierstein

I think being gay is a blessing, and it’s something I am thankful for every single day. — Anderson Cooper

Learn More: Stonewall as Milestone

When we look back at the Stonewall uprising and activism that grew out of that moment, even the most basic progress seemed like it would take a revolution to achieve. So we had one. And that’s how we’ve made such enormous progress over the last 50 years. Today, we should remain inspired by the courage of the story of Stonewall. — Tammy Baldwin

Stonewall represented, absolutely, the first time that the LGBT community successfully fought back and forged an organized movement and community. — Mark Segal

Faith and Pride

There is God. And then there is the church. The less we conflate the two, the better. The church may reject God’s children, but God never does. To my queer siblings, I’m so sorry. You are glorious. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

The Lord is my Shepherd and he knows I’m gay. — Troy Perry

“God is love,” Christians remind one another. This means that Christians experience love as something alive and living and personal and true. This Love that is God and God that is Love is the creating and healing power within life. This Love that is God is kind and patient and humble and free–never trying to control nor manipulate. Every human being has experienced and knows this capital “L” Love that Christians call God. Christians believe that to receive and share this reality of Love, this God within who live and move and have our being, is the meaning and purpose of life. Why would we stop anyone from experiencing and expressing love? Or to put it another way, why would we stop gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, transgendered–anyone from experiencing, celebrating, and expressing God? — Mark Yaconelli

You can safely assume you have created God in your own image when God hates all the same people you do. — Anne Lamott

Sexuality and gender identity elicit so many strong feelings and even irrational opinions because they touch upon something foundational. If you don’t recognize the sacred at this deep level of identity and desire, I don’t know if you will be able to see it anywhere else. When Christians label LGBTQIA individuals as ‘other,’ sinful, or ‘disordered,’” we hurt these precious people and the larger community, and we actually limit ourselves. Fear of difference creates a very constricted, exclusive, and small religion and life, the very opposite of what God invites us into … Even as we acknowledge the sacredness of gender and sex, we also need to realize that there’s something deeper than our gender, anatomy, or physical passion: our ontological self, who we are forever in Christ. You are beyond the metaphor of male and female; you are a child of the Resurrection, a creature of Eternal Life. As Paul courageously puts it, ‘There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28). Those who have already begun to experience their divine union will usually find it very easy to be compassionate toward all ‘Two Spirit’ people because they know they share the same ontological, essential self that is ‘hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3). Richard Rohr

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