Monday, September 10, 2018

The problem with freedom. . .

In 1992 then Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote of freedom: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”  It is a sweeping statement in which truth is replaced by "concept" and the individual takes precedence over all else.  It is literally a society of one -- one truth, one definition of life, one set of values -- and it transforms a nation into as many different societies as it has people.  Furthermore, it steals from family, religion, and culture the primary role of establishing these things.  At best, these are merely individual guides to the individual.  It is as if all the institutions within the fabric of our society have said to the person, "You go figure it out and whatever answers you come up with are equally valid and equally true..."

If you spent anytime in the study of history or philosophy, you learned quickly that the greatest threat to liberty comes not from others but from the tyranny of the individual self and its abdication to the primacy of desire.  Societies and nations depend upon shared truth, shared morals, shared values, and shared beliefs.  Without these shared components, liberty creates an impossible tension between competing individual truths and rights -- a conflict that cannot be avoided or resolved.  When the individual is the arbiter of what constitutes hate speech or phobia or offense, there is no legal system left to provide order from the chaos of competing desires.  And this seems to be where we are headed.

I do not know if Kennedy is responsible for this or if he simply coined the phrase that has become the mantra of our modern age and its aversion to anything that prevents this self-discovery and this autonomous choice.  In any case, he exercised it well when he wrote opinions, especially, for example, the SCOTUS opinion that justified and made same sex marriage the law of the whole land.  It is one thing for this kind of foolish and childish arrogance to rule social media or even to spark protest but it is another when this is enshrined into law by the highest court of the land.  When that happens, no legislation can undo the imbroglio created by a court determined to undermine the very things that maintain liberty, justice, and freedom.

It is this that threatens the Church most of all.  And it is the triumph of this individualistic destiny that works most against doctrine, dogma, and universal truth.  People have always wanted to claim this kind of individualism but society and its institutions of government, education, and religion have always been there to rein in the kind of radical pursuit of self-identity.  Now these very institutions are not only under the influence of individual self-identity and self-determination but they foster it.  Government will soon find it cannot govern when there is nothing in common.  Education will soon hinder enlightenment when it has nothing from the past to offer except a critique.  Religion that leaves God as some sort of benign follower of the individual and his or her truth, values, and definitions will soon find itself irrelevant.

What we need again is the prophetic voice willing to expose this sham of freedom and speak truth to error and falsehood.  That is why it is so important not only for Christians to witness in words but to demonstrate in deeds the one life we live in Christ, the one set of values that judges all things, the one truth that alone guides you into truth, and the one God who sets you free indeed.  Liberal Christianity has become nothing but a hollow echo of such individualism.  Orthodox Christianity cannot be timid in the face of threat or persecution.  Too much rests upon faithfulness to the Word of God that endures forever.

1 comment:

Carl Vehse said...

Kennedy stated those words in Planned Butcherhood of Southeastern PA. v. Casey (1992; No. 91-744). Kennedy was part of the SCOTUS plurality which upheld the essential part of Roe v. Wade