Thomas Jefferson said, “Liberty is to the collective body, what health is to every individual body. Without health no pleasure can be tasted man; without liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society.”
The sham election just completed in Iran dangled the carrot of freedom in the face of a liberty-starved populace and the result has been stunning. Even the religious and politically all power Mullahs could not have predicted three days of the biggest and most anti-government protests since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The faint flicker of the flame of hope that all dictators allow to shine for the briefest of moments just so they can snuff if out, fostering despair and resignation; burst into an unexpected and passionate flame at the possibility of the election of Mirhossein Mousavi. As the Iranian people flooded into the streets of Tehran they chanted, “we fight, we die!” Mousavi said he was “ready to pay any price” as he continued his fight against election irregularities.
Reuters news agency reported, “Some formed a human chain in front of the Basij Islamic militia.” The militia opened fire, causing chaos as some died in the street and thousands more ran for their lives. But still the people refused to disperse. They responded to the bloodshed by chanting, “tanks and guns have no use any longer.” It was a faint echo of the slogans that filled the air prior to the 1979 revolution. It could be an echo that rises to a deafening chorus as the Iranian people find their voice to demand they be granted a full course of the freedom that have yet merely tasted.
Will this be the moment the Iranian people cast off the shackles of theocratic totalitarianism in favor of some measure, however small, of liberty? Realistically, the chance of full revolution is remote. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the worst kind of puppet dictator. He is a theocratic, religious madman who believes he can singlehandedly bring about the glorious return of world Islamic domination. Even if Mousavi were to somehow manage to wrest power from Ahmadinejad, he would simply be a slightly less mad alternative. The Mullahs, the Supreme Leader, and the Council of Guardians are where the real power of Iran rests. This triumvirate of evil will not allow real revolution. They will provide the illusion of an investigation into the so called “election irregularities” but it will be merely an illusion. The findings will support Ahmadinejad, therefore the only hope of freedom for the Iranian people lies in their determination to possess it.
Just as the people of Romania faced down the guns of the Communist despot Nicolae Ceausescu in the revolution of 1989, and just as the people of Poland embraced “Solidarity” which led to free elections also in 1989; so must the people of Iran refuse to allow this small flicker of liberty to be snuffed out. In Romania the crowd, surrounded by soldiers with orders to fire, tore open their shirts and marched straight into the guns. The army refused to fire on their countrymen freedom rose from the rubble of tyranny.
The story of freedom is a story that fires the soul of every true American. The image the statue of Saddam Hussein being ripped from its foundation by throngs of grateful Iraqis drunk with their first intoxicating taste of freedom bring tears to our eyes. The sight of proud Iraqis holding up their purple finger in the face of death threats takes us back to our own fight for freedom. On a cold Boston night, December 16, 1773, a group of 200 patriots descended upon three ships operated by the East India Company and threw the hated cargo into Boston harbor. It wasn’t the tax, the tea itself, or even the harsh actions of the British government that started a revolution that has become and inspiration to millions around the world. It was the idea, the possibility, no matter how faint, that people might be allowed to govern themselves. A people who would transform thirteen original colonies into the most powerful, free nation the world has ever seen.
What will the Obama administration do in the face of this cry of freedom rising from Iran? Will President Obama speak brave words of freedom that might just become the wind that will fan the flames of freedom? Will he call the election a sham and call for the Iranian government to hear the cry of the people? Just as it is not likely the Iranian government will permit the voice of freedom to prosper, it is not likely President Obama will take sides. The political costs would be too high. The President has invested too much in the idea of diplomacy based on his personal powers of persuasion to risk having all diplomatic efforts rejected if the revolution in Iran fails to fully materialize. He is in an understandably precarious political position.
But imagine for just a moment the President calling a press conference. He notifies the national news media outlets and requests all T.V. networks to broadcast his remarks around the world via satellite. The room is packed and the air is filled with the anticipation of what the President will say. Imagine, just imagine the President stepping up to the microphone, clearing his throat and saying in a confident voice amplified by the spirit of freedom, “To the people of Iran…the people of the United States support your quest for freedom. Stand firm and look behind you. You will see the spirit of freedom.”
Yes…as one trained in the discipline of hermeneutics, I know the proper context of Galatians 5:1 is freedom from the law unto grace. But even so, those words of Paul fire the soul of freedom in me. I pray that I will never lose my sense of gratitude that it is for freedom that Christ has set me free. I pray that I will always have the courage to add my voice to the voice of people everywhere when they raise their voice for freedom.
Dr. Tony Beam is Vice-President for Student Services and Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.