COMMENTARY: Freedom in God’s economy

Call it the “BlackBerry Dilemma.” It goes like this: Corporate technology officers love the new BlackBerry cell phone developed by … Continued

Call it the “BlackBerry Dilemma.”

It goes like this: Corporate technology officers love the new BlackBerry cell phone developed by Research in Motion: it’s built on a secure, proprietary network that’s easy to manage centrally. When given a choice, however, corporate workers prefer smartphones like the Apple iPhone because they do more, tap into boundless creativity, and allow more freedom. One estimate found that only 5 percent of workers would buy a BlackBerry.

As a result, IT chiefs are bowing to workers, and smartphones are winning, Apple is now the world’s highest-valued corporation, and RIM reported a deficit, lost some key executives, saw its stock price plummet, and might not get a product overhaul out in time to save the company.

The BlackBerry Dilemma has it all: control vs. freedom, centralized vs. distributed, boss vs. worker, familiar vs. new, dull vs. exciting.

It’s not just a problem for mobile technology. In the Roman Catholic Church, where central control is everything, a wave of decentralized thinking is threatening Rome’s control over congregations, personal practices and even doctrine. The Republican Party, too, is working hard at the state level to discourage free-thinking by limiting voting rights.

Old-line communications providers like telephone carriers, television networks and cable companies also face the BlackBerry Dilemma as free-thinking consumers explore other avenues.

Because health-care reformers lost the public relations battle, the war over reform is portrayed as protecting individual freedom to choose. In fact, it’s about the medical industry’s desire to control the market to their benefit and the parallel desire of people with adequate means to deny health care to everyone else.

Meanwhile, people are discovering they can do legal work online, get medical advice online, make their travel plans online, shop for houses and cars online, and read newspapers and magazines online.

As a result, industries that were once accustomed to centralized control through systems that required their expensive services now find themselves stuck in business paradigms that have stopped working. One analyst saw Best Buy’s decision to close 50 stores as “the end of big-box retailing” and, thus, a victory for decentralization. In an age of Travelocity and Expedia, when’s the last time you used a travel agent?

As Christians make their annual pilgrimage into Holy Week, they are reading this very story: central authorities who had set up self-serving systems found themselves facing a decentralizing Messiah, whose method was to form circles of friends, to avoid army vs. army, to go to the people, to encourage their freedom from all constraints.

Desperate to protect their central institutions of temple, throne and empire, the authorities denigrated, dehumanized and eventually destroyed this impertinent voice of freedom. The scandal of Christianity is that temple and throne both collapsed, and an empty tomb and voices set free from fear became markers of the new era.

This year’s Holy Week pilgrimage will have unusual irony because the centralized institutions that took control of the Christian message and tried to rule the world now find themselves under assault by the same decentralizing and freedom-seeking forces that Jesus expressed. Left free to choose their own ways to God, more and more people are choosing fresh voices, distributive faith, non-tradition, non-control, non-conformism.

Freedom can be stopped in the short run. Counter-reformations win some battles. The millions now flowing into conservative coffers, as oil barons, polluters and financiers seek to preserve “socialism of the rich,” could win in November. But free-thinking people will find other ways.

In God’s economy, an empty tomb and freedom from fear are the markers of life.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. His website is Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)

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  • RickWatcher

    This man speaks of socialism in the secular world and while man rules things socialism/communism/progressiveism will not work. Because the very few will have much and many will starve and be oppressed and killed.

    Here again a man is trying to tell people you do not need the church and the church is the creation of Christ who is the head of the church. To ignore the church, organized imperfect Christians, is to ignore Christ’s bride.

    One day all government will be upon the shoulders of Jesus and it will have some aspects of socialism yet that is the only time it will work. Until then our Constitutional form of government has been the greatest on earth and that only because men humbled themselves under the guidenance of God and His Word. When man thought he could do better without God then the system began to fail and that was when socialism/communism/progressiveism began to be injected into the system, just like a poison. and the proof is the governments of Russia, China and many others and the rapid downfall of this nation.

    God’s word warns us of men who preach a form of Godliness but deny much of His Word.

    Better wake up to the truth before it’s too late.

  • lastofall

    Old or modern, in all that comes and in all that goes in this world, we which do believe must needs continually keep ourselves from thinking beyond that which is written. What we of our own selves say, and what we of our own selves think shall pass away, but the Word of the Lord lives and abides for ever; this we know, whether any one likes it or not, and it shall not be changed just because some think it should, or say it should. We only deceive our own selves when we suppose defying God’s Word which is God’s will somehow changes God’s will, or that our will somehow over-rules God’s will; or our word somehow over-rules God’s Word.

    Truly God does not constrain us, for He looks for sincerity, but sincerity is voluntary, just as insincerity is voluntary. If we make ourselves to be an apple tree, but in the midst we have an orange, then we the tree shall be known by that orange. We either serve sin and are separated from righteousness, or else we serve righteousness and cut off sin; but we cannot have both, it does not work with God, but is a worldly concept, that we can serve both.


    There has never been any gods.

    Consensual sex between adults of the same sex – christian sin.

    Pouring hundred of gallons of dioxin into an area’s water supply, poisoning the drinking water for tens of thousands of years, causing cancer in thousands of children – not a christian sin.