Hey Christians, have we made an Idol of Individual Freedom? / A.J. Hendry

Recently, several Christian leaders have become increasingly vocal in their condemnation of the Government, calling for an end to lockdowns and to what some have labelled as “draconian, socialist policy”, tantamount to “prison” or “house arrest. These leaders find fault with the Government’s current Public Health centered approach, and would like to see a shift in that approach, one that is willing to accept loss of human life, in favor of the restoration of our freedoms, liberties, and individual rights.

Obviously, for many of you Brian Tamaki will be the first name that pops into your head, but there are other voices reading from the same song book, the Mortlock’s and the Watkinson’s are another couple with a bit more notoriety, but if I’m honest this sentiment, is a fairly common one that I’ve found within our church communities. Now, obviously I’m speaking from my experience, and once again, as a Christian myself, I’m not saying all Christian’s think this – that would be a basic contradiction due to the fact that I identify as one myself – but in the circles I walk in at the very least, it seems to be a common enough sentiment.

It is also one that hasn’t just been driven by these lockdowns.

Many Christians have been afraid for years that we have been losing our place in this world. That the Government is coming for us, and that if we don’t stand up for our rights, we’ll lose them.

I remember when I was a kid and the Government were enacting what were, I guess, quite significant social reforms of the day, the anti-smacking bill, the prostitution law reform, the introduction of civil unions, the arguments were the same. We were told that we were losing our freedoms, our personal liberties, that our rights were all being taken from us.

The fear within some Christian circles was palpable.

Later in 2018, when the name of Jesus was removed from the parliamentary prayer, once again the same arguments were brought forward. Several Christian Leaders mobilized, and we were called to march, pray, protest for our rights, for our liberty, for our individual freedoms.

And again, fear.

And then, more recently still, the bill to end conversion practices. Again, these arguments have been brought forward. Socialist government, power grabbing politicians, enemies of the faith, seeking to take away our rights, our liberties, and our freedoms, seeking to attack the church, to criminalize Christians, to criminalize pastors.


What I find the most confusing about this focus on liberty, freedom, and individual rights, is that these values are not the fundamental values of the Christian faith. In fact, they seem to have more in common with the values of the American Empire, than they do with those of a poor, impoverished indigenous man, who was murdered for speaking Truth to Power, sacrificing his own rights and freedoms for the sake of the collective.

The other thing I think is important to highlight, is that these fears have been largely unwarranted. Whenever there is social change, we’ve been told our liberty is going to be taken, and yet that has not happened.

Since the anti-smacking bill came in, we haven’t seen droves of Christian parents criminalized or dragged before the courts.

Since the introduction of Civil Unions and then Marriage equality, we haven’t seen a mass movement of Pastor’s being imprisoned or dragged before the courts, despite the church in New Zealand still – largely – holding to a Traditional Sexual Ethic and policy on sexuality and LGBTQ inclusion.

And yet, these lines are brought out every time, and every time many of us are driven by this fear to line up in vehement opposition to whatever policy, or group of people, that has been positioned as the object of these fears.

And yet, sadly again and again, we miss something. In our pursuit to defend our rights, our liberties and our freedoms, we miss that a lot of these shifts within our society aren’t about us.

The anti-smacking bill was about protecting the rights of small kids who couldn’t stand up for themselves. Children that were being beaten, and whose abusers were being let off using their parental right to discipline their kid as a defense.

The prostitution law reform came about as a way of recognizing a reality, prostitution will not be legislated out of existence, but we can find ways to regulate the practice, and keep the men and woman who do this work as safe as possible with the aim of reducing harm.

Marriage equality, civil unions, the bill to end conversion practices, these were about acknowledging the humanity of a historically marginalized and abused group within our community. It was about saying to the Queer community, you have value, and we are enshrining your existence, and your legitimacy into law.

And these lockdowns?

They are also not about us.

They are about protecting those in our community who are most vulnerable, they are about ensuring those who are sick, or weak, or at-risk, can be kept alive while we develop the tools, and build the infrastructure to manage this virus.

They are about caring for the most vulnerable, the marginalized, and the oppressed within our community.

What is crazy about those from within our community who oppose these lockdown’s, is that these are the core values of our faith.

The Christian Faith, at its core, with all the Imperialism, White Supremacy, and abusive, coercive power structures shoved to the side, is about radical care, love and inclusion for those who have been pushed to the margins, those who have been considered the least.

One of the great ironies of those Christian Leaders who are calling the Government anti-Christ and in the next breath are calling for the borders to open, willing to accept the loss of life that will entail, is that in a way these Christian’s have taken on the values of the Empire, while this Government – in this area at least – has been championing the spirit and values of Christ. It makes me wonder if personal freedom, and individual liberty has not become an idol within the church? Whether, we have forgotten the Way of Love Jesus has set before us, turning instead to secular definitions of freedom which have no place within the church?

To be clear, standing for our rights, our individual freedom, and personal liberty, these are not the core values of Christ. Follower’s of Jesus are time and time again invited do just the opposite.

Within our faith, overriding any claim to personal freedom is a challenge to lay down one’s rights in order to serve, to sacrifice one’s life – quite literally – for the lives of others.  

Instead of seeing lockdowns as an attack on our personal liberty, Christ invites us to see them as an opportunity to engage in a practice of intentional love and care for those who are most vulnerable to this deadly disease.

To be a people who willingly lay down our own rights, out of care and Love for others.

#LoveIsTheWay, and you and I, are invited to walk in it.

A.J. Hendry is a Laidlaw College graduate, and now a Youth Development Worker and housing advocate, working in the Youth Housing and Homelessness space. He leads a service supporting rangatahi experiencing homelessness and is also a steering group member of Manaaki Rangatahi, a collective working to end youth homelessness in Aotearoa. He is also the curator and creator of When Lambs Are Silent.


14 thoughts on “Hey Christians, have we made an Idol of Individual Freedom? / A.J. Hendry

  1. I believe we fail to see and accept these movements are the spiritual manifestations that are produced by the written legal word agreed on by those in parliament. We fail to acknowledge that what we bind on earth shall be bound in heave and what is loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Do you understand the state of this country and why it is in this state? Do you put it merely down to ‘we gotta love love love? For one thing we fail to let God apply His holistic love and care. Take Te Whare tapa wha. This model by Mason Durie is flaunted around Aotearoa in parliament, organisation’s, education, businesses and systems and yet, there is a huge pink elephant in the room called “Spiritual wellbeing”.

    I have never been in a job or seen a government understand and apply the spiritual area of wellbeing in all its entirety; and its because they have no idea what they’re dealing with. They want to connect the spiritual with the sea, the trees and flowers .. but that my dear friends is creation and it is NOT our spiritual life force. Creation was created by our spiritual life force, Jesus Christ, the living Word. Read His Word and His guidance to life and you will see that, the laws that are being rushed through indeed impact on society on a Spiritual level leaving us with a manifestation of increased suicides, increased murder, increased poverty, increased child abuse, increased corruption, increased disease, increased environmental disasters etc…Do you think this just happened?
    NO! You can be sure it’ll all go back to a change, a law, a plan, an idea that was signed or in some form agreed upon not fully understanding that what they were agreeing to had repercussions unforeseen (now that is in the spirit). And THAT is what the stands and protests are about. We are engaged in a spiritual warfare and only those who are alive to it understand the repercussions of decisions being made right up to the mark of the beast. The truth is noone can take away the freedom of the works of the gospel, no laws, no barriers, and no disease, no distance and no obstruction or resistance can stop the spreading of the gospel ALL is as it should be according to God’s will. He said people would be lovers of themselves and be God’s unto themselves going about to live how they want rather than His way. And here we are in a self serving , self loving, selfish world. All is being manifested. Do you believe millions of Christians are praying for change in the government? Then why be alarmed when people stand up and challenge the government to change? Do you think there are millions praying for the government to look after their people? Then why be alarmed when people protest about suicides, homelessness and land being stolen? Are Christians praying for the government to stop making ungodly laws and legislations? Then why be shocked at the protests to maintain rights to health choices and stop abortions and stop gay marriage. If we fail to truly embrace and begin to learn what envelopes the spiritual component then we are walking blind.


    1. Re “Do you understand the state of this country and why it is in this state? Do you put it merely down to ‘we gotta love love love? For one thing we fail to let God apply His holistic love and care.”…
      It has nothing to do with your God fantasy.
      It all comes down to 2 Pink Elephants… “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room –The Holocaustal Covid-19 Coronavirus Madness: A Sociological Perspective  & Historical Assessment Of The Covid “Phenomenon”” by Rolf Hefti at https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html
      “Between stimulus and response is your humanity.” (James Corbett, writer and analyst)


    2. Re “Do you understand the state of this country and why it is in this state? Do you put it merely down to ‘we gotta love love love? For one thing we fail to let God apply His holistic love and care.”…

      It has nothing to do with your God fantasy.

      It all comes down to 2 Pink Elephants… “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room –The Holocaustal Covid-19 Coronavirus Madness: A Sociological Perspective  & Historical Assessment Of The Covid “Phenomenon”” by Rolf Hefti at https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html

      “Between stimulus and response is your humanity.” (James Corbett, writer and analyst)


    3. whenlambsaresilent 05/10/2021 — 9:15 am

      You know I agree that protest and challenging the government are important things to do in light of the growing inequality and injustice in this country.

      But, how we do that is important. And needlessly putting the lives of our whānau at risk, in order to do so, is not, I believe the way Jesus has laid for us. Bless you sis, love and respect to you. A.H


    4. I believe that every one has choices, we were given that as Christians, we all come to the cross roads decide which one you take. I believe only the good die young not everyone of us will make it into the kingdom, we are not here to judge. Just hope and pray, help where we can, lol Ruth


  2. Freedom is an important by-product of the gospel. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you . . .” Jesus was a table turning emancipator. A sit back and relax cos God is a comfy place did not pull down the citadel of slavery.


    1. whenlambsaresilent 08/10/2021 — 12:53 pm

      We agree, God is a God of freedom. The question here is how is that freedom defined? And free, for what?


  3. I like what you’ve written for the most part. And fear is certainly not from God. However I do want to highlight that the marriage amendment bill and more recent conversion prohibition bill both use the technique of normalising in order to protect the marginalised. Yes caring for the vulnerable is good, but normalising the unnatural is not good. Gods definition of good & not good is our basis. He has set the fundamental order, the natural order, for humanity, male & female & marriage. He knows what is good for us. It’s detrimental to normalise the opposition of His order, much less to criminalise advocacy of His order. Our government is not naive nor is it smuggling anything in, they are actually open & clear in their agenda to normalise these unnatural human ways. Even proud among the nations in their agenda. Ok so even if we only consider this logically, God aside, men and women are clearly very different not least in the way they think. This normalisation is perhaps the most radical & significant change that could ever be made to transform human society as we know it, and also humanity as individuals. Based on God’s definition of good & bad, this radical societal normalisation will cause massive detriment to humanity.


    1. whenlambsaresilent 08/10/2021 — 12:52 pm

      Thank you for your whakaaro here e hoa. We have compiled some resources on a different Christian perspective on this here if you’re interested:



  4. Scott Nicholson 08/10/2021 — 2:55 pm

    Hey, just thought I’d pop a quick note to say well done. It is a great piece, calling out the problem with many of the church’s stances on many of these issues. Personally, I have often felt, we are standing on the wrong side of these issues. Somehow, we have lost sight of the fact that Jesus stood with (and defended) the woman caught in adultery, touched lepers, healed on the sabbath and ate with prostitutes and tax collectors (which culturally aligned himself with them) etc. He stood with and acted on behalf of the marginalised and disenfranchised. Yet much of the modern church seems hellbent on protecting its right to oppress, marginalise and colonise.

    Keep up the good work. Ngā mihi maioha


    1. whenlambsaresilent 08/10/2021 — 3:11 pm

      Thank you for your feed back here e hoa




    1. whenlambsaresilent 25/10/2021 — 9:12 am

      Hey mate, two things can be true. We can choose to Love those we disagree with, and we can also challenge the idea or action we believe to be harmful. They are not opposed to one another


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