Sally Palmer

Rev. Dr. Sally Palmer

Guest columnist

Our father, Col. Jerome Henry Lentz, liberated a Nazi concentration camp — Ordruf. My grandfather, Col. Bernard Lentz, taught close order drill at Ft. Slocum and helped compose “Sound-Off.” Following the destruction of Pearl Harbor in World War II, ours was a family that knew the cost of freedom. It wasn’t just that we came from a German immigrant family, that had to face its own kind of prejudice, but that the experience of resisting tyranny touched the depths of our souls.

Now, years after 9/11, we are faced with a different kind of tyranny. Are we going to mock our human connectedness and say “I can do what I want?” Or, are we going to acknowledge that this is a time, not for tyrants, but for living out the fullness of our human freedom, which now and always, is tied to the consequences of our deeds.

As we wrestle with global questions, about COVID and climate change, we can continue to say “I will do what I want.” But, that is a tyranny both in our own lives, because consequences are not “free,” and in the lives of others who may be vulnerable, disadvantaged, or wanting to live without anxiety.

The worst summer I spent in my life was when I was totally “free.” I had just finished my Phd. and was heading to a new job at the University of New Hampshire. Secure in my future, I had, at long last, three months just to be free. I rented a great apartment and woke up every day — not with the constraint of “What do I have to do academically”... but “What do I want to do today?” That disconnected “freedom” — turned to out be tyranny. Simply speaking…for three months I had no anchor — in faith, in family, in purpose.

Then, I was “free” and unattached, but, now, I know a purpose must anchor my soul.

Each of us. these tumultuous days, must ask “Who am I” in the midst of moral “free-fall” and “Who am I?” in a world that has no anchor for my soul?” Unbridled “freedom” is no freedom at all — It is license. All who practice a Twelve Step Program … know that our hearts and minds are not servants of impulse. We need a Higher Power. We need an anchor for our feelings, our thoughts, our soul.

So, wearing a mask is not a constraint on our God-given freedom. It is a willingness to welcome our belonging to families, to peoples, to communities that are near to us. It is a freedom to say “Yes” to Something greater than us. It is a willing commitment to be responsible for our part in the greater “scheme” of things. Yes, we are given free will — but it’s not an excuse NOT to wear a mask…for whatever reason. But human freedom is sign of our belonging — to the One Who gave us free will, to the One Who claims us…beyond ourselves.

Rev. Dr. Sally Palmer is a former pastor in Laramie, and teacher in religious studies at the University of Wyoming, and active leader in the Wyoming Interfaith Network and, an on-line practice called “Contemplating in the Chaos.”

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