Modern Liberty a Cruel Parody of Christian Freedom

As Easter comes ever closer the importance of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ should be magnified for every Christian. Christians should not forget the underlying message of the Easter story—the freedom won in Christ’s death and resurrection. For this is one of two major competing stories in modernity, and one that modernity would like to silence forever.

The perennial question of “what is liberty” tends to dominate headlines today. Who threatens liberty? How do we increase liberty? Why we should safeguard liberty? And so forth. Americans, especially, like to think of themselves as living in the land of liberty; that special nation destined to teach the world the universal values of freedom and liberty whilst dispelling superstition and oppression.

Liberty comes from the Latin word liber, which means “the free one.” But people often fail to recognize the deeper implication of liberty from its Latin roots. Liber was the Roman god of fertility. Ancient conceptions of liberty among the philosophers move in various directions but one of the main aspects of classical doctrines of liberty is that liberty is associated with the idea of ontological flourishing and fulfillment. Liberty leads to flourishing, which leads to life. This makes sense given the root of the word liberty being associated with the Roman god of fertility.

In the Bible God sets before the Israelites the ways of life and death and he tells them to choose life. That God tells the Israelites to choose life over death still means that the Israelites could choose death; and they often did just as we still do today. Life, I dare to argue, is the central theme that runs throughout the Biblical corpus. God speaks life into existence. God sets before us the ways of life and death. God blesses life and commands life to be fruitful and multiply—once more invoking fertility language and imagery as an integral component of what it means “to be free.” And Christ, of course, is he in whom all life—that is liberty—is found. Christ is the light and life of the world. In him all are freed from death.

 

Liberalism likes to portend itself to be the philosophy of liberty (and the only philosophy of liberty). But what exactly is this liberty that liberals speak of? It is nothing more than the choosing of death instead of life. If so then is it really a philosophy of liberty?

Thomas Hobbes defined liberty as the “absence of opposition.” By absence of opposition he means the absence of “external impediments of motion.” This is the definition of liberty we are more familiar with: Endless choice and power of action (action being motion). Who has any right to tell me how to act and what to do? Of course, the logical implications of the liberal idea of liberty are dangerously consequential for those who understand what the absence of any external impediments of motion and choice entails.

People complain about this phenomenon of “illiberal liberalism.” Sadly there is no such thing as “illiberal liberalism.” This “illiberal liberalism” is the very logic of liberalism coming to final fruition. If liberty is the absence of opposition as Hobbes defined, then anything that serves as a barrier to one’s free choice and actions of movement will have to be eradicated in order for liberty to reach its fullest expression.

Community is a barrier to liberty. Law is a barrier to liberty. Nations are barriers to liberty. Religion is a barrier to liberty. And yes, even nature and biology are barriers to liberty.

Liberalism, then, is a philosophy of conquest because of its false first principles that forces it to confront the Wisdom of the order of creation. Liberalism endeavors to destroy, to eradicate, to eliminate, all barriers that restrict human choice and action. The created order that constricts us must be destroyed for us to be truly free in the liberal program. It doesn’t matter if one’s choices and actions are harmful and bring about one’s own death—this is the burden and price of freedom! Liberalism has been very successful through its process of alienation and atomization to break down the bonds of community and relegate religion as a mere “choice” in one’s life. By sidelining religion to a mere choice, liberalism has effectively destroyed religion as a force of unity and common belief. Similar to the observations of Richard John Neuhaus in The Naked Public Square, liberalism’s removal of religion from public life to private life serves the purpose of removing religion as a force of opposition. The absence of religion is really the devolution of human life to bare life, or animal life.

Why follow law when law is a barrier to human choice and movement? Why be attached to nations when nations are barriers to human choice and especially to movement? Furthermore, nature must be destroyed (or ignored) to bring about “freedom.” This is why the right to kill a child is such a sacred part of the liberal creed. Opposition to abortion, human or institutional, is an impediment to one’s choice and free action. This, however, shows why liberalism is really about death instead of life—whenever life is at stake liberalism will deny life in preference for choice (of death). The right to choose death is greater than choosing life.

Thus, the final frontier for liberalism to conquer is human nature. That same human nature Christ restored in his incarnation, death, and resurrection to bring about life to humanity. That nature can finally be free, and flourish, because of Christ.

The Christian story stands opposite of modernity’s story, or more precisely modernity’s story is a deformed parody of the Christian story. The Christian story is about how liberty is life and life is liberty. Modernity’s story, much like Satan’s inability to majestically create but only corrupt and deform, is but a crude and cruel parody of true liberty. Modernity’s story, much like how Satan is the prince of deception, is all about deception. Liberalism uses the same narrative techniques and language as Christianity does but to serve the end of death rather than life. But liberalism will call this movement to death what “life” (liberty) is really about. Instead of life and liberty, modernity—using that same language—is all about death and slavery.

The story of Christianity is one of redemption from death to life, slavery to liberty, and wandering to fulfillment; that there was darkness in the world and the Light (Christ) came into the world to liberate it from the bondage of death. Liberalism tells the same exact story but as a cruel inversion of the Christian gospel. As we all know, especially in the English-speaking world thanks to the Whigs, we once lived in a “dark age” that is now slowly being dispelled by the light of progress and the triumph of liberty over slavery with our desires finally being able to be fulfilled by endless choice. Salvation is just over the horizon!

The push to continue to marginalize Christianity into non-existence is the push to eliminate Christianity as an oppositional impediment to the dream of liberalism: The consummation of death writ large (in the name of liberty of course). Liberalism must muzzle and eliminate Christianity because Christianity offers to humanity the true story of salvation, the true story of freedom from bondage and the consummation of liberty. Liberalism pretends that it tolerates religion but any rational person can see through that veil. Liberalism’s story is nothing but a sad and cruel parody of the greatest story ever told: The story of the salvation of man.

As Christians we should not be afraid to call out liberalism as nothing but a cruel and twisted parody of the Christian story; Satanic to its very core. As Christians prepare to receive the Light of the world and reject Satan and his kingdom of darkness, Christians should also never forget that the demons come as false bearers of light and progress and this is also what they’re rejecting in renouncing Satan and his ways. Christians can no longer be ashamed or afraid for the battle against darkness is one that concerns itself with life itself. It is the battle for liberty. And as Christians we know where the true vine of liberty is found.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is a portrait of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) painted by John Michael Wright (1617-1694).

Paul Krause

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Paul Krause holds an M.A. in theology from Yale University's Divinity School having written his thesis on the political theology of St. Augustine, and holds a B.A. in economics, history, and philosophy from Baldwin Wallace University.

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