Thursday, August 23, 2012

Enslaved by Freedom

As I have written before, the American obsession with "freedom" bothers me. Here's some more food for thought for those who think freedom can somehow be 'secured' or 'possessed.'

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: 

"In the language of the Bible, freedom is not something persons have for themselves, but something they have for others. No one enjoys freedom 'in itself,' that is, in a vacuum, the same way that one may be musical, intelligent, or blind as such. Freedom is not a quality of the human person. Nor is it an ability, a disposition, a kind of being that somehow deeply germinates in a person. Whoever scrutinizes the human to discover freedom will find nothing of it. Why? Because freedom is not a quality that can be discovered. It is not a possession, a presence, or an object. Nor is it a pattern for existence. 

Rather, it is a relationship; otherwise, it is nothing. Indeed, it is a relationship between two persons. Being free means 'being free for the other,' because the other has bound me to himself or herself.  Only in relationship with the other am I free.

No substantial or individualistic concept of freedom has the ability to encompass freedom. Freedom is something over which I have no control as a possession. It is simply the event, the experience, that happens to me through the other. If we ask how we know this, or whatever this is, not just another speculation about the beginning that results from being in the middle, we can answer that it is the message of the gospel itself, that God's freedom has bound us to the divine self, that God's free grace becomes real only in this relationship with us, and that God does not will to be free for the divine self but for man and woman. Because God in Christ is free for us humans, because God does not hoard freedom for the divine self we can envision freedom only as a 'being free for.' For us who live in the middle through Christ and know our humanity in his resurrection, that God is free means nothing more than that we are free for God." (from A Testament to Freedom, 106-107)

G.K. Chesterton: 

"We may say broadly that free thought is the best of all safeguards against freedom. Managed in a modern style, the emancipation of the slave's mind is the best way of preventing the emancipation of the slave. Teach him to worry about whether he wants to be free, and he will not free himself." (Orthodoxy, 114)

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