The Four Freedoms

Rockwell 4 Freedoms

The Four Freedoms

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Religion

Freedom from Want

Freedom from Fear

In mid-December, Mary Louise and I were in Vermont with my son Jay and his family. Nearby, in little Arlington, Vermont, was a simple Norman Rockwell museum. While he was living there, during the midst of World War, “Roosevelt and Churchill issued their Atlantic Charter with its Four Freedoms proclamation.” Rockwell, the most famous American artist of his generation, said, “I had tried to read it, thinking that maybe it contained the idea I was looking for as a way to contribute to the war effort.”

How, after all, does a middle aged painter – more skilled with paint brushes than grenades – help his nation defeat the evil of Hitler’s advances?

Roosevelt and Churchill talked about four freedoms. The Freedom of Speech and the Freedom of Religion are enshrined in our American Constitution (see the First Amendment). Two others – the Freedom from Fear and the Freedom from Want – were absolute and positive aspirations in the midst of a violent World War.

Rockwell want to capture these freedoms on canvas. But how? As Rockwell wrestled with how to portray these freedoms graphically, he went about his normal life, saying, “I went to an Arlington Town Meeting, I attended a Grange supper … Then one night as I was tossing in bed, I suddenly remembered how my next door neighbor, Jim Edgerton, had stood up at Town Meeting and said something that everybody else disagreed with. But they let him have his say. No one had shouted him down. My God, I thought, that’s it! There it is. Freedom of Speech. I’ll illustrate the Four Freedoms using my Vermont neighbors as models. I’ll express these noble ideas in simple, everyday scenes that everybody can understand.”

One Christmas Eve, I recounted this story. One of the reasons that Christ came in human form – became incarnate – was because everyday people sometimes have a hard time “picturing” the great God of heaven. Therefore, in addition to coming to save us, Christ came as a human to paint “simple, everyday scenes [of God-with-Us, Emmanuel] that everybody can understand.”

That reminder from Christmas Eve is one reason that I highlight these pictures again.

There’s a bigger reason. Now, I’m not going to tell you what that theme is yet, but over the next week or so, I’m going to highlight aspects of these pictures to highlight that bigger theme.

Indeed, I want to help train you to think theologically this season. But wait … Do you consider yourself a theologian? You are. Every person who thinks about God is a theologian. Why? Because their engaging in thoughts about God. The only question is: Are you a good theologian or a bad theologian?! Do you think about godly truth or are you swayed by worldly lies? The answer to that last question is probably “Yes.” I pray that you do strive to think about godly truths. I know that we’re also immersed in the world and its lies, and we can’t help, even by accident, to be often steered astray. So, are you a good theologian … or a faithful person who doesn’t want to be as easily led astray?

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who loves to think

about the things of God!



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