Today’s Free Ride blog is a tribute to the late Freddie Mercury, that Parsi-born native of Zanzibar who would have turned 64 today. If you’re not familiar with this lead singer for the supergroup Queen, you’ve probably heard and sung along with many of his songs – “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” have become virtual anthems in our culture (the latter thanks to Wayne’s World). Queen has an amazing lasting popularity, especially in the UK, where they are arguably the most popular rock group in history, selling more records and spending more time on the charts than any other group, including the Beatles. And Freddie Mercury is always in the top ten if not at the very top of polls that name the greatest rock voices of all time.
Given the theme of this blog (musing on freedom), it’s fitting to go back and listen to one of Freddie’s standard stadium anthems that he always performed when Queen packed out those huge arenas around the world. I Want to Break Free is something of a coming out song, although I’m not sure he was ever in any closet to begin with regarding his sexuality. The campy, cross-dressing video for the song was over-the-top for its time, and could have been a reason why Queen’s popularity didn’t soar in America like it did in Europe. Nothing like having a mustached man in a maid’s dress vacuuming the floor and screaming out,
God knows humanity has been breaking free for a long time. While contemporary restrictions on sexuality are generally justified on the basis of biblical bans, we only have to read the whole story of holy writ to see how a large swath of the faith community has long been liberated from selective scriptural sanctions and traditional church teaching: requirements for widows to marry their brother-in-law and prohibitions on contraception are a couple of examples (not to mention the fear of getting struck dead like Onan). And while same-sex constraints are still alive and well in our culture, it’s amazing to me to see how so many within the faith community, even the conservative evangelical faith community, have broken free from homophobia and have come to a more just and gracious stance in relation to the left-handed and ambidextrous members of the family.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m a firm believer in fidelity, in monogamy, in covenant love. There’s a type of freedom in those values. It’s a freedom “for” as opposed to a freedom “from.” Freedom for lasting relationships, freedom for mutuality. It’s the responsible (reponse-able) side of freedom, the freedom found in the ability to respond to the challenges and triumphs and tragedies of a covenant relationship over the course of a lifetime. The thing is, many of the gay members of the family of faith share this very same belief. That’s why they work so hard on the issue of marriage equality. While there’s plenty of dialogue around this, there is generally an understanding of the difference between liberty and license – the latter refers to doing whatever you please, however excessive. The former refers to that freedom found in relationships, and it seems to me that one of the lasting values of the biblical narrative is it’s emphasis on the beneficial nature of covenant relationships. That’s a timeless truth that doesn’t change as cultural understandings of sexuality changes. Like Freddie sang, I don’t want to live alone. And I can’t help but wonder if one of the deeper meanings of his anthem was a desire to break free from the excesses, the license that can be so addictive, so that he could experience a more response-able freedom with a life partner. Just a thought. Sure would be nice to still have his voice around.
As always, your feedback and comments are welcome.