The Shadow Side of Freedom: Building the Religious Counterculture

By Levy-Lyons, Ana | Tikkun, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

The Shadow Side of Freedom: Building the Religious Counterculture


Levy-Lyons, Ana, Tikkun


Americans, we love our freedom. We sing about it in our national anthem. We pledge allegiance to it. Our soldiers ostensibly fight and die for it. This nation was founded on a struggle for freedom from a parental power, culminating in the establishment of an "independent" nation of autonomous persons, each defined by his or her individual right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And, of course, it was the struggle for religious freedom that brought many of the European colonists to the Americas in the first place. So, it could be said that, at least for those who immigrated by choice, a love for the patriotic rhetoric of freedom is in our blood.

And yet, over the years, as the great freedom experiment of this nation has progressed, we have seen its shadow side. Today, the Tea Party and political conservatives in general hold the banner for a particular type of freedom - freedom from government regulations. We've seen the deadly results of this freedom on our ecosystems, on wealth distribution, on public health, on farm animals, and on the safety of our schools and city streets. Political liberals and progressives are quick to eschew this kind of freedom and argue for social and ecological accountability as a higher good.

But when it comes to "social issues" and religion, it's liberals and progressives who hold the freedom banner. Reform Jews, liberal Christians, Unitarian Universalists, American Buddhists, yogis, spiritual progressives, and those who have no use for religion whatsoever reject the obligations imposed by religious dogmas, laws, and traditions. These groups privilege freedom differently yet no less adamantly than conservatives do. And this kind of freedom also has a shadow side.

Religious Modesty vs. Commodified Sexuality

In a previous Tikkun article, I wrote about Mayim Bialik, the Jewish neuroscientist-turned- TV actor whose religious commitments have become quite public as she regularly reflects on them in print and online. She is vegan (to model how to care for the earth) and she keeps kosher. She is a vocal proponent of attachment parenting. She adheres to Jewish modesty laws in what she wears onscreen and off: clothing has to cover elbows, knees, and collarbone. Bialik has struggled publicly with how to pull this offin the glitzy, sexy Hollywood world, especially when it came to finding a dress to wear to the Emmys. She called the quest to find this dress "Operation Hot and Holy."

While Bialik's story is charming in ways, some Tikkun readers may have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, a smart, confident, modern woman is standing up for her beliefs in a countercultural way. On the other hand, a smart, confident, modern woman is submitting herself to what is arguably a sexist, archaic set of rules invented by a bunch of men in the Middle Ages. Surely it can't be good for women or feminism to have a public figure legitimating such rules. Mayim Bialik is relinquishing her freedom, or so an argument might go.

Progressive agendas, including those of feminism, often center on personal freedom from precisely the kinds of laws that Mayim Bialik observes. The sixties and seventies were all about this movement toward freedom from religious and cultural norms experienced as oppressive. If it feels good, do it. Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. It was a youth culture that scorned tradition. Women embraced a kind of freedom we had never seen before and clothing became emblematic of that freedom - burning bras, exposing lots of skin, celebrating our sexuality instead of condemning it. Free to be you and me.

This was a vital step forward for our culture and it carried with it real advances for women as well as for people of color and LGBT people. But sadly, what was sexual liberation for one generation became, in some ways, oppression for the next.

How Capitalism Has Co-opted Sexual Liberation

As traditional religious laws and social norms lost their grip on our culture, they lefta power vacuum. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Shadow Side of Freedom: Building the Religious Counterculture
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.