Freedom. What it is, and how the modern world gets it wrong.

I recently attended an event where part of the activities was a board.   A group of students and community members had learned about modern day slavery (the sex trade in Southeast Asia, forced labour, etc.) and watched a film.  They were asked to then share their reactions on this board, and what freedom meant to them. 

One woman (I assume, based on the lovely penmanship) wrote that freedom meant to her, “My body.  My choice.”   This phrase is a familiar one to us.  It refers, primarily, to the abortion debate – whether or not a woman should be free to terminate her pregnancy by killing her growing child, if she does not want that child for any reason, the most common of which is the child would infringe on her “freedom.”   Abortion as an issue aside, I do want to highlight why this bothered me. 

We, in the modern world, have misunderstood what “freedom” means.  What it looks like, what its purpose or end is, and how we are to use it.    We have defined freedom as being free from the other, rather than being free for the other.    We understand freedom wrongly, as a sort of “willful” freedom to do whatever we want based on whatever whims, rather than the freedom to do good.    God has given us freedom not so that we can do whatever we feel, but so that we might freely choose to love Him, and love each other as He loves us.     

So, this woman, ostensibly a feminist, has compared the plight of the slave to the plight of a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy.  But she is wrong.  Freedom grows by doing good.   If I use my freedom to help someone else, then their freedom has grown.    

But both abortion-advocating branches of feminism and slavery share their roots in the same misunderstood definition of freedom.    A slaver, by buying or selling a slave, is, by the modern standard of freedom, more free.  If I had a slave doing my laundry and a slave tilling my fields, I am undeniably more “free” in the modern sense, to engage in other pursuits.   Like the monied slaveowners of the Americas hundreds of years ago, I might even, with this new found free time, engage in very noble pursuits.   Science, governance, civic action.   But my freedom as a hypothetical slave owner isn’t truly freedom, and it doesn’t encourage freedom to grow.   My freedom depends on the servitude of other.   It depends on my looking at my fellow man and seeing, not an equal, not another beloved by the Creator, and bearing His Divine Image – but seeing instead a means to an end, a tool to be used, to be exploited.   And I, like other slave owners, might say I have noble means for enslaving others, and I might even mean it.   But the undeniable truth is that my actions misuse and therefore, ultimately decrease freedom.  

Which is the same as abortion.   I do not believe I have ever met or heard of someone who got an abortion for a non-noble reason.   “I don’t feel ready.”  “Every child should be wanted.”  “I want to finish school.”     But a noble end cannot be achieved by an unjust means.   Freedom gained by the slavery or slaughter of others is not true freedom.    Sin is slavery, and Christ is freedom.   I am freest when I do good, and least free when I do evil, even if my evil action gives me more “options” it does not win me, or those I am exploiting, any sort of freedom.

But let it not be said that I have an axe to grind against feminists.   While I disagree with them a lot, I share some beliefs.   There has arisen, in response to feminism, a similar, male-centric movement.   The “Men’s Rights Advocate” or MRA movement.    I agree with MRAs on a few things, but, as with feminism, disagree with them on a lot of fundamentals.

MRAs have, like the slavers and feminists before them, fallen into this modern misunderstanding of “freedom.”    Warren Farrel is a significant figure in the men’s rights movement.  In his book, The Myth of Male Power, he defines freedom as “control over one’s life.” You can see, then, if I have made myself clear, just how much he buys into this modernist understanding of freedom.   Freedom isn’t a state of being, but rather an end in itself.  Freedom isn’t for the “sake” of anything, but itself, to Farrel and all who share the modernist definition of freedom.  He writes “In the past, neither sex had power; both sexes had roles: women’s role was [to] raise children; men’s role was [to] raise money.”   Again, as there is an absence of freedom from the other (IE, children – notice how both MRAs and feminists feel “enslaved” by children, a demographic that Christ had a special love for.)   This absence of freedom from is, to Farrel and other MRAs, proof that feminists are wrong.  That men are just as “maligned” as women.

Farrel, in The Myth of Male Power coins the term “disposable male.”   He talks about how men are powerless, because throughout much of civilization men have had to fight and die to protect women and children.   Men, then, are victims of the patriarchy, because they aren’t “free from“.    

Farrel coins the term, but not the concept.   In ages past, we had a different name for “the disposable male.”  We recognized his duty to die for his woman and children, for his clan, for his kingdom, for his God.   We didn’t call him the “disposable male”.   We gad a different name for him.

Knight.

And before that…

Patriarch.

The mother was not free from her husband and children.   But free for them.  To love and comfort them.  To teach them.   And the father was not free from his bride and their children, but free for them.  To protect and cherish them.  To guide them.   And, yes, if the need was great, to die for them.

Of course, Farrel and his acolytes would scoff at me.   “That’s his point!  Men are fed this bullcrap about heroism and bravery!   They have to be socialized to risk their lives, to not fear death.”   But I disagree.   I will do so first by quoting Gilbert Keith Chesterton who said:

The eighteenth-century theories of the social contract have been exposed to much clumsy criticism in our time; in so far as they meant that there is at the back of all historic government an idea of content and co-operation, they were demonstrably right. But they really were wrong, in so far as they suggested that men had ever aimed at order or ethics directly by a conscious exchange of interests. Morality did not begin by one man saying to another, “I will not hit you if you do not hit me”; there is no trace of such a transaction. There IS a trace of both men having said, “We must not hit each other in the holy place.” They gained their morality by guarding their religion. They did not cultivate courage. They fought for the shrine, and found they had become courageous. They did not cultivate cleanliness. They purified themselves for the altar, and found that they were clean.

 

Man did not “create” courage.   God did.  It is primordial, ancient.   Prehistoric, in the truest sense of the word, in that it is BEFORE history begins.   Man, however, discovers courage when the early men began to lay down their lives for causes greater than themselves.   And the men weren’t the only brave ones.   In a time where childbirth was as deadly as the blade of an enemy, women battled and laboured to bring their children into the world.   And while the lion or the bird only need take care of their children a short time, the man and woman had to for a decade and a half.

It is a shame.   The MRAs and the feminists debate one another hotly.   But their opinions and views come from the same modernist, post-Christian misunderstanding of freedom.  Both feel they are battling oppression, both feel they are oppressed, but they are because they both misunderstand freedom in exactly the same way.  They see freedom as being, “the more choices I have, the more free I am,” which, I hope I have demonstrated, is not true.

What I have discussed here isn’t my own, but comes from Christ – and from the Scripture.   Saint Paul wrote:

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”  (Ephesians 5:22)  This verse is often used by anti-Christians to try and portray the Church as anti-woman.   But Saint Paul goes on.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  (Eph. 5:23.)    The is a reciprocity there.   Just as  the Church isn’t free from Christ, nor does Christ leave or abandon the Church so He may be free from us.   And just as the Church has to “submit” to Him, He has to “give himself up for her.” 

Freedom isn’t simply an abundance of choices – and the more “choice” you have, the more free you are (as Margaret Sanger and Warren Farrel would both tell you, before going for each others’ throats.)  Rather, freedom is the truth.  The Truth.  The Way.  The Life.   And the truth is a “choosing” of choices, a casting aside of all others and choosing “one.”  

Veritas liberabit vos

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – Jesus Christ, John 8:32

 

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One thought on “Freedom. What it is, and how the modern world gets it wrong.

  1. Thank for this. We have definitely twisted what “freedom” means. Freedom is not the ability to do whatever the heck we want, it’s the ability to do what is right and good. Though we’re all autonomous, free citizens, there has to be restrictions placed when the choice we want to make will cause great, unjust harm to others. I think one of the reasons people are blind to the selfishness of abortion is that we don’t realise how indebted we are to people and institutions who supported us when we didn’t earn it. Thanks again for this post. We need to be louder about restoring the definition of freedom. Here are 2 posts I wrote that echo your sentiment:

    http://karenwriteshere.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/life-is-not-what-you-make-of-it/
    http://karenwriteshere.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/pro-choicers-will-you-please-answer-this-one-question/

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