Sunday, June 15, 2008

To be free

As Christians and People of God, one of the goals of spirituality is freedom. We seek to be free from poverty, free from oppression, freedom from the forces in society that turn us away from God and the good found in others. We seek freedom from our carnality and pure emotionality that is irreverent of the providential goodness of God. Paul writes, we seek to be free from the slavery of sin and fear of death (Rom 7:14; Heb 2:15).

Freedom is by all means an important thematic element in the spiritual journey, but are their currents within Christianity and culture that view freedom as absolute, freedom idolized perhaps?

Sadly, yes. Most clearly in culture, freedom has become synonymous with whimsy and caprice. The free person is the self creating person, the person who seemingly floats free of influence and heeds the call of no one. The free man can say what he wants, without considering the reception of others. The free man can become what he wants, without care of who is taken advantage of. The free man is a sort of existential ideal, living in a situation Heidegger calls "fallenness," a hermeneutic employed by Heidegger and espoused by Jean-Paul Sartre which calls each person to realize his responsibility and freedom following the awareness of the "death of God".

Because of the failed Enlightenment project we know that man, in fact, has a deal of limitations. Thus in accord with these limitations man cannot become his own creator. For instance. human rationality has a limit, and in the face of this limit, the conception of man seems intuitively inadequate. Or considering the various instincts and emotive influences that man is forced to deal with on a daily basis, it is clear that the supposed death of God does not necessitate the responsibility of the self-creating project.

All of these points revolve around the question of the proper use of freedom. Further, the value and proper use of freedom is either an end in itself or freedom is a subordinate end or means to a greater end.

The first possibility endows man with an absolute freedom and equally absolute responsibility that man cannot adequately fulfill and be held responsible for. The previously mentioned self-project cannot be the sole responsibility of the person, if only for the reason that the person did not initiate it. Man is gifted with the prospect of personhood and is so condemned (according to Sartre) to the responsibilities to that personhood.

Rather, freedom to participate in the self-project which was initiated by Someone else must point to a freedom beyond mere whim or caprice, beyond the care of a single person. Freedom is, in a sense, the self-project as participation rather than condemnation. Freedom is a participatory experience. As Karol Wojtyla writes,
Love consists of a commitment which limits one's freedom -- it is a giving of the self, and to give oneself means just that: to limit one's freedom on behalf of the other. Limitation of one's freedom might seem to be something negative and unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful and creative thing. Freedom exists for the sake of love. If freedom is not, is not taken advantage by love it becomes a negative thing and gives human beings a feeling of emptiness and unfulfilment. Love commits freedom and imbues it with that to which the will is naturally attracted -- goodness. (Love and Responsibility, 135)
Freedom ends in love. Perhaps the loving acknowledgment that we are not our own gods; that though we are utterly responsible for our actions, we are not alone in them.

1 comment:

Jonathan Pichot said...

bWe should be reminded of the limits of freedom more often. Where has our collective responsibility for each other gone?

Good stuff you've got here.