Does Christianity Affirm Modern Concepts of Liberty?
|The Republic, 1794, Antoine-Jean Gros
Liberal socio-political ideology, of which the modern Left and Right are both a part, is in its very nature the father and the abettor of what are understood to be human liberties in modern society. It boasts of being their greatest defenders, and proclaims Christians who remain immovably faithful to the dictates of God's Word to be the enemies of these liberties. It is completely accurate to say that Liberalism, whether it be of the classical or revolutionary variety, may be defined as a doctrine which recognizes the same rights in evil as in good, in error as in truth, and consequently professes that all opinions must be afforded a certain degree of respect. Let's examine these liberties in themselves and in their effects, and establish a rule of action in regard to political constitutions based upon these so-called liberties. We can enumerate these modern liberties as follows: liberty of conscience and of worship, liberty of the press, liberty of education or instruction, to which we can add liberty of association. We need to briefly explain them and examine how we as Christians should regard them.
Liberty of worship, which is also frequently called liberty of conscience, grants everyone the right to profess whatever religion he pleases, or even to profess none at all. This same liberty, considered from the social point of view, forbids the State to render worship to God, or authorize or deny any public worship; no religion or church can be preferred to another; all religions have equal claims, regardless of the faith of the people, even if they were all Christian. Interestingly enough, we're seeing this liberty threatened by the Left in the particular case of Christians, which should tell us how deeply their conviction of this liberty actually goes. One could easily be suspicious that the demand for such a liberty is really only a ruse to eventually erode the Christian influence in culture, since that is exactly one of the effects this false liberty has had in the hands of modern "conservatives" and progressives alike.
Liberty of the press means the right to express by writings, any doctrines or ideologies whatsoever on moral, political, social, philosophical, and religious matters, and even the right to present lies as truth, however immoral or socially damaging they may be. Yet again, the Liberal, who historically demanded this liberty, is now the very one who threatens it. Anyone at all familiar with the measures employed by social media to suppress stories that threaten to expose the lies of favored political candidates and narratives can see this clearly. Liberty of the press then was only a means to an end, the gradual destruction of healthy social order, faith, and beauty.
Liberty of education proclaims the natural right of everyone to propagate these same doctrines by private and public instruction. And yet, Liberals in control of public education have made it nearly impossible for students to exercise these liberties, as they ban certain groups, political clubs, and speakers from campuses, while actively promoting ideologies that would remove the liberties the Liberal first advanced. Again, one could be forgiven for suspecting that the entire Liberal movement was destined to arrive at this conclusion from the start, since all indications point in that conclusion.
Liberty of association asserts the right of forming any societies or unions people choose, though they be secret and dangerous to religion and social order. It is also a freedom from association; one doesn't have to associate with any particular group or idea if they so choose. And yet, the Liberal is violating this very liberty by demanding we participate, even if passively, in their chosen causes. Examples are many, including the forced participation of school children in gay pride parades, Islamic religious ceremonies, etc., even against the will of parents.
Let's not forget that it isn't a question here of simple tolerance, but of the acknowledgment of what is declared to be a natural, sacred, and inalienable right. Then remember that a right is a moral power, and that the right of one man always implies in other men and in rulers the duty of respecting it and making it respected. It is true certain restrictions have been formulated with regard to the use of these liberties, but these restrictions, while in themselves quite illogical, remain usually a mere matter of theory, to be forgotten in practice, as my examples above demonstrate. These liberties now extend to, not just what some might think the reasonable, but to the outright immoral, unreasonable and even the Satanic. In the eyes of the modem State it isn't a moral outrage to have child drag queens dancing for gatherings of gay men, but a Christian baker who chooses not to bake a cake for a gay wedding is a criminal.
These liberties, all of them, are false in principle. Christianity alone is true and binding upon all men. By the will of God, Christianity has the right to exist and to spread throughout the world, to demand faith and obedience from all men, as every man is bound to seek his salvation in Christ. Every doctrine and ideology opposed to God's Word, and all morals contrary to God's moral law, are condemned without further proof or appeal. Neither religious error nor moral evil, the two deadly poisons for the intellect and the will, can ever have any right of existence. It follows, therefore, that no individual or government may lawfully place any obstacle to the exercise of this exclusive right of the Christian Faith without incurring divine judgment. In fact, right and duty are correlative terms; the right of one person necessarily implies the duty of others to respect that right. Therefore, it follows that neither individual nor government can lawfully claim for error or evil, heresy, godlessness, and immorality a natural right to exist or expand. Error and evil have no such right; on the contrary, rights belong exclusively to truth and goodness. Herein we find in principle the inevitable condemnation of these modern liberties. Indeed they're nothing but the proclamation of the rights of error and evil, and the open refusal to respect and protect rights belonging exclusively to Christ and his church. This is clearly implied in the description given above of these liberties.
These alleged liberties, understood in this way, are contrary not only to faith but to reason itself. Let's examine briefly a few of the fatal effects produced by the application of Liberal social doctrines.
First effect: The gradual weakening and extinction of faith and religion. Its almost impossible for even intelligent people to escape the influence of their social environment. If it encourages religious indifference, how will the people remain attached in heart and soul to their Faith? How will they have the courage to practice all their duties faithfully when they're being criminalized for doing so? When the masses, particularly children and the uneducated, see even elected officials indifferent to Christianity, making no distinction between the order and graciousness of the Faith and the brutality of radical Islam, between truth and error, their moral sense will necessarily be weakened, and they in turn will regard morality and faith as subjective, outdated and of no importance. Furthermore, an evil press, which we absolutely have today, will be sure to attack and slander the faithful Christian or social conservative, making it difficult for them to work and live peacefully, and, as has been the case all too frequently, even place their lives in danger at the hands of other Liberals prone to violence. This intimidation is designed to silence dissenting voices through slander, libel, and doxing.
Second effect: There is a very fine line separating perversion of mind and contempt of Christianity from perversion of heart. Those who have lost faith in God due to Liberal propaganda no longer fear His justice, and those who have no hope of eternal happiness just might abandon themselves to the violence of their passions under the influence of revolutionary social ideology. Man thirsts for happiness; if he no longer seeks it where it is to be found-in God, in peace of conscience, and the firm hope of eternal life-he's forced to seek it here below in the satisfaction of his disordered passions, even the most depraved. This is constantly verified by history.
Third effect: The rise of Socialism/Totalitarianism. When freed from the restraint of God's moral law why wouldn't the poor look with envy upon the possessions of the rich, and why, when they find themselves empowered by Socialist revolutionaries, wouldn't they take forcible possession of that which they covet? While I only hinted at it in my opening statements, this is indeed where classical Liberalism inevitably leads-Socialism! No doubt many who profess and advocate Socialism don't see its disastrous consequences, but their shortsightedness doesn't do away with the history of the Soviet Union, of Cuba, or Venezuela. Nor does it destroy the incontrovertible logic of facts; sooner or later classical Liberalism will bear its natural fruit-social disintegration leading to Socialism or Totalitarianism.
What About Man's Free Will?
Some might argue that God, the supreme Legislator, granted liberty to man, therefore civil society or power may do likewise.
1. To solve this difficulty it suffices to make the essential distinction between physical liberty, or simple power, and moral liberty, or right. It is certainly true that God gave man liberty, but which kind of liberty? He gave him physical liberty, that is, the possibility of choosing between good and evil, but not the right to use his liberty to do evil. He imposed on him the moral obligation to make use of it to attain his created purpose. The truth of this is evidenced in that He warns of hell for those who choose to do evil and reserves to Himself the right to punish them eternally. Society can't, even if it tried, rob man of this physical liberty; but it doesn't imitate the action of God if it grants man the right to do evil with impunity.
2. Furthermore, to set one's actions by those of another, one must be in an analogous position. Now, in regard to liberty there are important differences between the divine and the human government.
a. "God is Judge," writes Aquinas, "because He is Creator," and in Him the judicial and the creative act reach beyond the insignificant duration of time. His field of action is eternity. Are these the conditions of human government?
b. God has placed side by side with liberty in this life all the correctives, commandments, exhortations, promises, consequences, duties, grace, etc., necessary to protect it in its power for good and thwart it in its power for evil. He has created domestic society and civil society and invested them with punitive power. He commands parents to chastise their children and not to spare the rod (Prov.22); and the Apostle Paul reminds rulers that they don't wield the sword in vain, that they're God's ministers, avengers to execute wrath upon him that does evil (Rom.13). Is it in this sense that human government seeks to imitate God's government?
Its clearly evident that neither the church nor the State can be charged with intolerance and tyranny when they seek, as they did in the days of Christendom, to regulate the exercise of the human will, and to diminish the facilities for evil and thus prevent men from risking their eternal happiness and welfare. Such restrictions, far from being an act of oppression, are, on the contrary, a great benefit to society, facilitating for its members the accomplishment of sacred duty and rendering neglect or violation of sacred duty more difficult. These are the benefits which result from the cooperation of church and State when circumstances render it possible. By protecting the Church of Christ and prohibiting opposing religions the State doesn't violate man's liberty, but comes to the aid of his weakness by shielding him from error. It would clearly be absurd to maintain that it was violating the rights of the human intelligence to teach and enlighten someone so that they're able to distinguish truth from falsehood; why is it any less absurd to claim that it was tyrannical—that it was doing violence to man's will to remove incentives to do evil and help him to attain the good for which he was created? It might just as well be said that a bridge is an attempt to interfere with the ability of people to drown in the river beneath it.
As already noted, the right to be impious, blasphemous, or immoral doesn't exist for man, and the State violates no right when it prevents its subjects from destroying that which is necessary for their eternal happiness, or from weakening all that serves as the basis of civil as well as religious society. It is remarkable how readily even many Christian are to admit on the one hand that it isn't violating human liberty to forbid and punish certain crimes, such as assassination, theft, rape, which militate against the temporal welfare of subjects, and, on the other hand, denounce as tyranny all attempts to remove causes that produce or encourage evils still more serious, since they compromise the eternal welfare of these same subjects.