A transcript of this vlog can be found here:
March 4, 2013
The Enslaved Are Free and the Free Are Enslaved
Freedom (or the lack thereof) has two distinct impacts on human beings. The obvious and most common effect of freedom is the earthly ability to do as one pleases without hindrance. However, how can we, as sinners, fully experience the gift of freedom which comes from God, if we are shackled with the slavery, penalty, guilt and death of sin? If we are not free spiritually, we are encumbered by the worst oppressor, sin. We sin because we allow temptation and earthly desire to confine our spirits. Our sins contribute to the spiritual enslavement of those around us by creating temptations for others. For example: Say I am infected spiritually with sin and am angry because somebody has cut in line ahead of me at the movies. By cursing and mouthing off, my actions will likely generate within the other person anger and hostility towards me. I have effectively cloned the sin in my spirit and passed it on to this new person. Perhaps with God’s grace, the line-cutter might draw on his own spiritual fortitude to conquer this temptation, but it is more probable that he shall succumb to the temptation to react retributively to my vitriol. I have contributed to the destruction of this person’s spiritual freedom by succumbing to my own lack of freedom.
Unfortunate yet sinful occasions do not affect just our own spiritual well-being, however. Spiritual freedom is essential to creating worldly freedom. Earthly freedom is managed by those who hold power in this realm. It is vital that the powerful are also spiritually free. When a leader succumbs to sin, he/she will make decisions which limit the earthly freedoms of others, to further his or her personal sinful and earthly quest for power. Leaders such as Adolf Hitler and Kim Jong Un coveted their own power rather than the Will of the Father. Their lack of personal spiritual freedom became the catalyst for sinful acts and the destruction of the spiritual freedom of others. Do we, as men, require others to tell us how to live our lives? Do we genuinely require our worldly leadership to tell us how to behave or how we should think? Are we to ignore the sanctity and gift of free will given to us by our Father? Of course not. We are called by our Church to live with subsidiarity, following the teachings of Jesus to fashion the ways we behave and treat one another.
We embrace the mystery of spiritual freedom by living by God's commands (Peter 2:16). If we allow a thirst for earthly power to direct our actions, we may attain power while on earth, but we starve for spiritual freedom, leaving us vulnerable to sin while we destroy the earthly freedom of others. Unfortunately, many of our political leaders ignore the Gospel; for Jesus suffered His passion for our freedom (Galatians 5:1).
Can we truly love our brothers and sisters while taking away their freedom? Of course not! To love another person is to promote his or her freedom. For example, let us say that you decide to help a homeless person on the street. Even if you simply buy this person a meal at McDonald's, you are giving not just your money and time, you are also giving love and promoting this person's earthly freedom. Being exposed to generosity and love makes us more likely to act with the same kind of freedom-creating love towards others. For all you know, the homeless person you helped may go on to act with tremendous love in the future due to your actions and thereby create freedom for others.
A complex relationship exists between our spiritual freedom and our earthly freedom. Even while one is enslaved, that is to not be free in the earthly sense, one can still be spiritually free. In His Beatitudes, Jesus tells us that those who are weak and who suffer are blessed. Each of us knows, from personal experience and observation, that those who are free on earth can also become spiritually enslaved by sin. The sinful leaders mentioned earlier are iconic examples of individuals who are earthly-free yet still abdicate to sin the control of their actions. We can choose to exercise the gift of free will to enslave ourselves and others through sin, or use the gifts of life and free will to create free communities grounded in spiritual freedom; that is, spiritual freedom that centers on being instruments of love for the Father.
Our Catechism highlights a vital aspect of earthly freedom. Subsidiarity asserts that what one may do for himself, no higher power should do for him (Catholic Church 1883). This is how we are to govern ourselves. While mankind may function more optimally, in some ways, with a centralized governing power, our governments must not control those things that we can and should do for ourselves. Clearly you and I cannot create, by ourselves, the spider-web of roads that we drive upon nor can we as individuals provide for ourselves the necessary protections against all sorts of threats including natural disasters, or external threats by those who would do us harm. For those things which are best done collectively, we should work together, collectively, each contributing appropriately to the common goals. But for those things we should provide for ourselves, we must work honorably to support ourselves and loved ones.
Unfortunately, many in our society believe that voting for politicians and for laws that promote collectivism are purely altruistic and are the best way to serve our poor. Which is a greater act of love: giving money (through taxation) to one governing body that will take a fraction of your "donation" and give it to the poor, or actively and freely serving and assisting others? Do we really need our governments to, on our behalf, perform acts of service which we are called by Jesus Christ to do? Obviously, assisting our brothers and sisters in need is best done personally. Collectivism prevents us from serving freely, the way Jesus calls us to. If we give our resources to our government, we are crippled in our ability to give personal charity.
We can give to the poor and decide where we should live. We can decide what we want to eat and vote for what laws we want to follow for the betterment of society. In no way should those who hold political or judicial power deny others the freedoms stipulated in the Catechism as the liberating tenet of subsidiarity. If subsidiarity is sacred and holy, why do many of us insist on electing people who support collectivism? Do we not understand that the concept of collectivism inhibits our earthly freedoms? We are called to freely use the fruits of our labors to aid our less fortunate brothers and sisters rather than through well-intentioned but grievously immoral oppression by our governments (1885). Just as we all endeavor to become more spiritually free, we must strive to become more free whilst on this earth. The examples of failed collectivist societies are blatantly catastrophic and we must learn from these tragic failures. The Soviet Union murdered millions of its own people, starved hardworking families, banished our Lord from its culture and ideology and ultimately collapsed under the weight of a social structure designed to foster the sovereign power of the ruling elite rather than for the good of the citizenry. Nazi Germany also failed in its sinful quest to dominate, killing millions of innocents, exterminating millions of our Jewish brothers and sisters, and leaving Europe in ruins. Our nations cannot succeed and better mankind when God’s Will is not central to our way of life. We must always structure our nations to promote individual freedom in keeping with God's plan for subsidiary living.
Upon understanding the teachings of Jesus, we are offered transcendental freedom by living within His commandments (John 8:31-32). For the past atrocities of denying our brothers and sisters freedom comes the responsibility and penance of refusing to let the quest for power resume. By loving those in need, and by electing representatives who will labor tirelessly to create freedoms for individuals, we protect and encourage our collective freedom and honor God’s design that man should enjoy His gift of free will. Keeping ourselves free from sin is a vital step we each must personally take to assure our world remains as it should: free, loving and peaceful. Laws, if created with sinful and earthly purpose, fail to do as Jesus did on the cross (Romans 8:1-4). We have been shown the epitome of love and have been given the instructions for achieving ultimate spiritual freedom. We must continue to exercise our freedoms for the betterment of our society: spread worldly freedom and promote the Christian subsidiary lifestyle.