In the open-source software world, advocates make a distinction between “free as in beer” and “free as in freedom.” While free (of cost) beer is nice, the freedom to share, modify, extract and even profit from (depending on the license) is truly precious, and has allowed an ecosystem to develop around not only software but cultural and (aÂ favorite) other projects. Even beer.
But Christians I’ve read, looking towards the same phenomenon have used another similie: “free as in grace.” This suggests an alternative to free in economic, practical, intellectual or utilitarian terms. If something is compellingly true, and has its origins apart from human initiative — let me put that out thereÂ tentativelyÂ — then that truth demands cooperation of those who hear it to liberate it for the sake of liberation. So, I think of evangelistic tracts which long before free culture movements have been distributed “free as the Lord provides.” (Free here being largely financial, but the fact the sponsor comes from the Free Churches isn’t lost on me.)
But see also of the Jewish liturgical Open Siddur movement. Or the DVD I picked up yesterday at a Chinese grocery — and is theÂ proximateÂ reason for this blog post — from a Buddhist mission. (Alas, the videos seem to be of a monk speaking one language I don’t understand, and subtitled with a different language I don’t understand.)
There’s not much English on the case. But I can read “For Free Distribution — No Copyright.” Â And that’s a good enough reason for me to take it back so someone else can profit by it.
I’ve written on this subject several times, please consider reading