September 3, 2012
Prior to the collapse of Communism, East Germany, the GDR, was held under the iron grip of secrecy, paranoia, and control by the Secret Police, called the Stasi. The Stasi featured what was undoubtedly the most comprehensive internal security operation of the Cold War. The Stasi exercised control through a widespread network of informants. Researchers estimate that out of a population of 16 million, 400,000 people actively cooperated by informing on one another. The Stasi kept files on up to 6 million East German citizens--one-third of the entire population.
With broad power and remarkable attention to detail, the Stasi monitored all phone calls and all mail from the West. The Stasi kept close tabs on all potential subversives, even collecting scent samples from people by wiping bits of cloth on objects they had touched. These samples were stored in airtight glass containers and special dogs were trained to track down the person's scent. The agency was authorized to conduct secret smear campaigns against anyone it judged to be a threat; and torture was an accepted method of getting information.
Even those members of society who thought they were flying “under the radar” turned out to have their entire lives on file. The freedom to have privacy, movement across borders, or even differing opinions was annihilated by Stasi agents and informants. Freedom was but a memory and a disintegrated hope.
In the West, by contrast, freedom rules the day. In general, we are free to do and to be whatever we want. We move unhindered toward the achievement of our own personal freedoms and objectives, without worrying about impediment or coercive control from outside forces. We have the freedom to worship, unhindered by government intervention or surveillance. We are free to think as we want, speak what we want, and do what we want.
For the Christian, freedom is given for the sake of service to others. Paul writes: “You were called to freedom; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Gal. 3:13-14
We are called to freedom, not so we can waste it on our own self-interested pursuits, but for the sake of one another.
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